Roadtrains in the Outback—The First ‘Autonomous’ Vehicles

September 17, 2020

Mad Max in the Outback
Roadtrains have been a feature of the Outback since the 1930s.  They are the original “autonomous” vehicles.  The whole idea behind them was to serve as a supply chain to the rugged, isolated communities of the Outback.  The engineering technology was also pretty impressive at the time.  The engineers who invented them had to solve the problem of all of the truck trailers following one another without a “track” to guide them.  The solution the engineers devised was to join the front and rear axles of each trailer with a metal rod designed to make the rear axle follow the front axle without dragging or cutting corners.


Why the history lesson?
Well, it’s the same kind of thing that’s happening with self-driving trucks now.  The roadtrains of the 1930s displaced the cameleers of that era.  Now, self-driving trucks will do the same to the truck drivers of today. 


But wait, there’s more.  What if you created self-driving roadtrains…?


Autonomous driving ‘platoons’?
That is exactly the direction that a company called Peloton has been taking.  No, not that Peloton.  A different Peloton.  Read on…


Not that Peloton
Peloton’s Automated Following is an advanced platooning system that uses “vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology to enable a single driver to drive a pair of vehicles.”  Not quite self-driving and not quite Tesla but super interesting.


There are many layers to this technology story—the motherlode would be self-driving roadtrains.  You get pretty massive gains in efficiency from self-driving trucks and roadtrains, individually.  The next natural progression sounds like combining the two ideas.


Anybody else want to try driving one of these puppies back to the homestead?  Probably fun but not practical unless you have a garage the size of an airline hangar.

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