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Drive assist technology allows tractor-trailers to tailgate safely, save on gas

Drive assist technology allows tractor-trailers to tailgate safely, save on gas (ABC7)

Glenn Eaton fires up his tractor-trailer and his feet are off the pedals.

“It’s the safer way of travel,” said Eaton, who has been driving 18-wheelers for more than 30 years.

Eaton took ABC7 News for a ride as a researcher of driver-assisted technology did the navigating.

Three tractor-trailers followed closely down I-66 in Centreville, VA.

“When we’re at this kind of gap setting, the front truck actually doesn’t save anything but our second truck and our third truck do save 5-7 percent of their fuel consumption,” said Steven Shladover, a researcher from the University of California.

It’s about saving gas and safety.

“And if a car was to cut in front of you, you don’t quite see it, they would slow down, you hit them. This way here the truck does the slowing down for you,” said Eaton.

The Federal Highway Administration calls it “platooning.” Trucks are able to communicate. The third truck knows when the first truck brakes.

“We cannot build more lanes to handle the traffic that’s coming in the future so how can we get more capacity on the existing highway infrastructure,” said Michael Trentacoste, with the Federal Highway Administration.

Researchers say the truck drivers are essentially able to tailgate each other because the computer reacts instantly, unlike the human brain that communicates with the foot. That takes up to two seconds.

Eaton has driven trucks for more than 30 years.

“But it can make you too comfortable too,” said Eaton.

The research continues.

The computer-assisted tailgating could be on the market in the next two years.

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