Every month we select one logistics startup which represents a positive example of innovation in Logistics and Supply Chain and has the potential to alter the way the industry operates. This June, Transmetrics selected Peloton, a platooning solution provider, as the “Logistics Startup of the Month” for its remarkable achievements in solving the biggest challenges of the trucking industry: Crashes and Fuel Use.
In order to learn more about the startup and what it does, we have talked with Rod McLain, VP of Marketing at Peloton, about the business and how Platooning can improve operations in the $700 billion trucking industry.
First of all, congratulations on becoming the Logistics Startup of the Month! Could you briefly introduce our readers to Peloton? Can you explain in more detail the concept of Platooning?
Thank you! We’re very excited to be given this honor. Peloton is a connected and automated vehicle technology company dedicated to improving the safety and efficiency of U.S. and global freight transportation. Backed by ten Fortune Global 500 companies, Silicon Valley-based Peloton partners with customers to deliver innovative tools that save fuel, avoid crashes, and improve operational insight through connectivity, automation, and advanced data analytics.
Peloton’s flagship driver-assistive platooning system, PlatoonPro, utilizes vehicle-to-vehicle communications and radar-based active braking systems, combined with sophisticated vehicle control algorithms and a connection to a Network Operations Cloud, to create a connected driving experience that improves fuel economy, driver teamwork, and safety.
What are the components that need to be installed on the vehicle to enable Platooning with Peloton?
The PlatoonPro system includes hardware and software. The system can either be retrofitted or upfitted if the truck is pre-wired for PlatoonPro. It is a relatively easy process that takes only a few hours. The hardware consists of pieces carefully designed to complement the driving experience including a display, driver controls, platooning control unit, speaker, GPS and LTE antennas, a camera, and a push-to-talk pedal. More detail on our system hardware can be found here.
Would you like to share any specific customer success story?
We do not share specific customer information at this time but will say we are engaging in successful customer activities on a regular basis and are pleased with the results of these activities; we are excited to continue working with potential customers and showing the benefits of PlatoonPro on real, on-highway routes.
Do you have any plans on expanding your service to the European or Asian markets? What kind of challenges and opportunities do you see along that way?
At the moment, we only operate in the US but are excited by the platooning activities and successes happening across the globe. Since freight and trucking is a global industry, we think platooning could have a significant impact on how trucks across the world interact with each other and with the environment. However, every market is unique in some way–differences could be in road conditions, regulations, truck styles, or public perception. As we have done in the US, we would consider the needs of each market. For example, in the US, every state determines its own following distance laws which communicate how closely vehicles can follow one another on the road.
We have done significant work with individual states to change these following distance laws to allow for truck platooning–so far we have 22 states where platooning is fully approved and another 10 that allow limited commercial deployment or testing. We continue to work with states to explain truck platooning and its benefits so that platooning can help save fuel and increase safety over even more miles.
How would you evaluate the potential of platooning from the driver’s perspective?
People rightfully have many questions and concerns about vehicle automation and how it will affect drivers and the driving experience. With PlatoonPro, we do not remove drivers–we simply automate the acceleration and braking of the following truck through a V2V connection with the lead truck. The drivers are expected to continue to steer and perform all other driving tasks just as they would without PlatoonPro. While using PlatoonPro, drivers have a direct audio channel to communicate and operate as a team–exchanging alerts and keeping one another aware of the surrounding driving conditions.
The current platooning technology can be described as “a level 1 automation system.” How will Platooning evolve with the expansion of autonomous vehicles in the next few years?
Platooning is a realistic first step in automating Class 8 trucks. As technology develops, Peloton and its product offerings will progress toward steps we feel increase the safety and efficiency of the trucking industry.
In your opinion, besides platooning, what are some of the biggest trends in the trucking industry we should keep an eye on in the next 3 years and why?
- Alternative power sources i.e. electric and hydrogen
- Platooning increases fuel efficiency in diesel-powered trucks, which reduces emissions; however, platooning can also be used to extend the range in trucks using alternative fuels and electricity. As the industry adopts more of these vehicles, we’re excited to see how platooning can help optimize their efficiency.
- Higher levels of automation
- Platooning is considered a Level 1 automated system; we’re not removing drivers or taking over steering with PlatoonPro. This will change with higher levels of automation, which is a popular topic as many industry players are working to bring semi-autonomous or fully autonomous vehicles to market in the coming years.
- Increased focus on safety
- Safety has always been a great concern for the industry and all users of the road. With a stronger adoption of safety technologies, such as collision mitigation systems (CMS), we feel that the industry will continue to improve existing technologies and introduce new technologies to lower collision and fatality rates involving trucks.
Congratulations on your recent $60M Series B funding round! What are you planning to invest the money in and what major developments should we expect from Peloton in 2019-2020?
Thank you! Since our Series B funding round, we have grown as a company and developed our product to the point of commercialization. In the remainder of 2019 and in 2020, Peloton will announce additional products, partnerships, and customers as we move forward with platooning and its possibilities for the industry. Keep an eye out for these announcements!