How Lidar Can Advance Trucking Safety and Efficiency

How Lidar Can Advance Trucking Safety and Efficiency

By Laura Wrisley, Vice President of Sales, Velodyne Lidar, Inc.

Trucks are responsible for transporting many of the goods Americans consume, making them a critical component in supply chains. Still, concerns around safety, efficiency and a shrinking workforce are highlighting the much needed implementation of safe autonomy and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) technologies. 

Lidar Trucking Safety Efficiency

Lidar technology presents high-resolution, real-time 3D information to provide truck manufacturers, integrators and fleet management companies the performance, reliability and scalability that are an essential component to navigate trucks and enhance vehicle safety.

Why Increasing Autonomy is Essential to Trucking

Trucking is a robust industry. The trucking industry hauls most of the freight in the United States, accounting for 72.5 percent of domestic tonnage shipped, according to the American Trucking Association. ATA reported overall freight revenues in 2020 totaled $879 billion and estimates they will rise to $1.435 trillion in 2031.

The industry is vitally interested in promoting safety for trucks and the nation’s highway system. In doing so, safety is the top factor in the push towards autonomy. In 2018, the number of large trucks involved in injury crashes was 112,000, with 4,862 of the accidents involving fatalities. Most trucks have sizable blind spots which are exacerbated by a vehicle’s height and length, posing safety hazards.

A Class 8 truck – the largest truck size – can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. A fully loaded truck needs a much greater stopping distance than a car – almost two football fields in good conditions, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This needed distance increases the risk of collisions.

Another industry challenge behind the push towards autonomy is workforce dynamics. The average age of a truck driver in North America is 51 and it increases every year, writes Mobility Foresights. The industry also faces a driver shortage, with ATA estimating a shortage of 160,000 drivers by 2028.

Improving fuel efficiency is an additional industry priority. Diesel fuel is trucking’s largest operating expense at 39 percent of total costs, according to The Truckers  A commercial truck can easily consume more than $70,000 of diesel fuel per year.

All these factors are powering trucking industry interest in autonomous vehicle technologies.

Benefits Lidar Can Deliver to Trucking

Lidar can be a key technology to deploying autonomous solutions in trucking. Lidar sensors support precise, reliable navigation in real-time autonomous operation in urban and highway environments. They can detect and track vehicles, pedestrians and other obstructions to help ADAS and autonomous vehicles safely navigate at various speeds. This includes traveling night and day in a range of road conditions such as rain, sleet and snow.

Among the benefits lidar provides to the trucking industry are:

Improve Safety. Lidar sensors play an essential role in enabling ADAS and autonomy. Lidar sensors improve the overall perception system of a truck, due to their rich data content, robustness to a variety of environmental conditions and coverage of corner cases during driving.

Lidar sensors can provide a wide field of view, up to 360°, which can provide much-needed visibility around a truck to eliminate blind spots. This includes both horizontal and vertical fields of view that are important in addressing complicated situations. For example, having lidar beams pointing towards the sky can assist in alerting drivers of the clearances of upcoming overpasses and other structures.

Lidar sensors can cover a range of up to 300 meters to help trucks understand and react to approaching road conditions and surroundings. For instance, with a lidar sensor mounted on the top of a truck, the vehicle can see multiple cars in front of the truck. This enhanced visibility enables additional reaction time – that may not have been previously available – to allow a semi-truck to stop safely in response to braking taking place several cars ahead.

Increase Efficiency and Sustainability. As noted, fuel costs make up a large portion of operation costs for trucking companies, which ultimately trickle down to consumers. Lidar brings increased efficiency and sustainability to trucking, helping the industry remain competitive. 

ADAS and connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technologies could improve a vehicle’s fuel consumption by up to 40 percent, lowering the carbon emissions from trucks. ADAS will also allow the industry to employ platooning, which is when two or more trucks travel one behind another at a safe distance to improve fuel economy. Studies show 65 percent of current long-haul truck miles in the U.S. could potentially be platooned, which would reduce total truck fuel consumption by four percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Alleviate Workforce Woes.Driver shortages in trucking have been increasing since the 1980s because of an aging workforce, and the burdens of long-haul driving. Autonomous technologies AVs can help alleviate resulting labor shortages.

Lidar can help make the driver’s environment less stressful. The technology does this by enabling automation of many of the most taxing and frustrating tasks a driver must manage with quickly changing traffic patterns in front and on both sides of trucks. These capabilities, which remove the most physically and mentally challenging tasks, will help the industry retain drivers. They can even entice next generation drivers, attracted to the technologies used in trucking.

Lidar in Action in Trucks

One leader in deploying lidar in commercial trucks is Ford Otosan. They are testing and planning to use Velodyne Velarray H800 lidar sensors to enable safe navigation and collision avoidance in next generation vehicles.

The sensor will help Ford Otosan to create superior autonomous driving technology, addressing edge-cases for driving situations, including curvy roads, potholes, intersections, on/off ramps, residential areas and roadways with unclear lane markings. It delivers high performance during daylight and at night, enabling the detection of vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and more.

Burak Gökçelik, Assistant General Manager, Ford Otosan said, “Autonomous vehicle technology, powered by lidar, can bring multiple efficiency and safety benefits to the trucking industry. Our autonomous driving initiative with Velodyne looks to improve roadway safety by helping trucks understand and react to approaching road conditions and surroundings.”

The Road to Increased Safety and Efficiency

BI Intelligence has noted, “Change to the trucking industry will be gradual but inexorable. Companies with foresight can start to make long-term plans to account for the ways that autonomous technologies will change how goods and products move from place to place.”

The time is now for the trucking industry to develop and test autonomous vehicle technologies to position themselves to reap the benefits of improved vehicle safety and efficiency.


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