Tailgating Trucks Making Roads Safer?

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WASHOE COUNTY, NV - Two semi-trucks are barreling down the road just feet apart, and Nevada officials say it's safe? Yes, if they are using a new technology called "platooning". It's far from being dangerous, this type of tailgating could actually be safer for big rigs and those around them. Not to mention it could save trucking companies thousands.

Using something similar to Wi-Fi, semi-trucks can hook up and exchange information about breaking and accelerating. It allows one truck to draft another, reducing wind resistance and increasing fuel mileage.

Stopping distance is a thing of the past. Where semis usually travel more than 200 feet apart, they can now follow at about 30 feet.

"Immediately when the first truck starts breaking, the rear truck can apply the breaks within a hundredth of a second compared to the human reaction time of 1 or two seconds," said Joshua Switkes, Owner of Peloton Technology.

Peloton developed a system that wirelessly links trucks. When the front truck accelerates or brakes the back one does it at the same rate.

"Driver behavior and other types of errors that are made are reduced with this system of vehicle to vehicle communication," said Bill Hoffman, Deputy Director of NDOT.

The purpose of the technology is to save money. The front vehicle reduces wind resistance for the back vehicle, a 10-percent fuel savings. The back vehicle eliminates an air gap for the front vehicle, a 5-percent fuel savings.

"The platooning aspect is really about fuel efficiency, saving potentially double digits," said Brian Krolicki, Nevada's Lieutenant Governor.

Krolicki tested the technology Thursday and says it's the future of freight movement in Nevada.

"You can be driving along the road and any truck that you happen to see that has this technology, you can caravan platoon. So that is very exciting," said Krolicki.

The technology isn't on the market. It's still in the testing phase, but that testing is being done right here on Nevada roads.

The driver of the truck steers the vehicle the entire time. Only acceleration and breaking are automated. The technology has many fail safes, if the system detects any problems, the control of the vehicle is immediately be given back to the driver.