PORTLAND, Ore. — Locomation, the world’s first trucking technology platform to offer human-guided autonomous convoying, announced yesterday (Aug. 12) the successful completion of its first-ever on-road pilot program transporting commercial freight.
The pilot program, first announced at this year’s Truckload Carriers Association’s (TCA) annual conference in March, is the result of a partnership with Wilson Logistics, a family-owned transportation logistics company based in Springfield, Missouri. The pilot program is a significant step for both companies as they pursue the most direct path to delivering commercially viable autonomous technology to the trucking industry.
In this phase of the deployment, two Locomation tractors, hauling Wilson Logistics’ trailers and freight, were deployed as an autonomous relay convoy (ARCTM) on a 420-mile route that stretched from Portland, Oregon, to Nampa, Idaho, along Interstate 84 — a route that offers some of the most challenging road conditions in terms of curvatures, grades and wind gusts.
ARCTM is Locomation’s unique proprietary approach to autonomous trucking. ARCTM allows one driver to pilot a lead truck that’s equipped with technology augmentation, while a follower truck operates in tandem through Locomation’s fully autonomous system. This allows the follower driver to log off and rest during the drive time. Each ARCTM segment is engineered for maximum yield and utilization by Locomation’s business operations team.
“The successful kickoff of this commercial agreement with Wilson Logistics is a significant milestone for our teams,” said Çetin Meriçli, Ph.D, CEO and the co-founder of Locomation.
“Despite the threat of COVID-19, we delivered real-world results for the most advanced, efficient and safest solution to make commercial autonomous trucking a reality,” he said. “Most importantly, the pilot strongly proved that our autonomous technology can be integrated seamlessly and deployed within a real trucking operation in a sustained fashion.”
Having seen the route for the first time during the initial, eight-day pilot phase, Locomotion’s ARCTM covered approximately 3,400 miles, operating autonomously roughly half of the time, and delivered 14 commercial loads. At all times during the pilot, each truck was staffed with a trained driver and a safety engineer who were tasked with monitoring vehicle and AV system performance, collecting more than two dozen key performance indicators that are vital to ensuring the successful deployment of autonomous vehicle technology.
“This test pilot was critical for Wilson Logistics because it proved the true commercial viability of Locomation’s ARCTM technology,” explained Darrel Wilson, chairman and CEO of Wilson Logistics. “For our team, it’s the perfect combination of safety improvements, increased asset utilization, reduced cost per mile and — most importantly — a better driver experience.”
At full commercialization, Locomation’s autonomous vehicle technology is expected to produce an estimated 30% reduction in operating cost per mile, including an 8% reduction in fuel consumption, and remove more than 40 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air per convoy annually.
Aon, Wilson Logistics’ risk-management consultancy, also participated in the pilot program in order to assess a range of metrics related to safety.
“We congratulate Wilson Logistics and Locomation on a successful initial test phase,” said Mark Brockinton, CEO of Aon’s transportation and logistics practice.
“We are thrilled with the performance of the pilot and its safe, on-time deliveries each day,” he continued. “We think Locomation’s platform points to a future for freight carriers where risk factors related to accident and loss are significantly lower.”
The Locomation-Wilson Logistics agreement will initially operate more than 124 ARCTM-equipped tractors in two-truck convoys on 11 ARCTM segments throughout the U.S. at peak implementation. The next phase in the partnership anticipates delivering more than 1,000 two-truck convoys representing more than 2,000 ARCTM-equipped trucks operating on more than 68 ARCTM segments nationwide.