Locomation and Wilson Logistics pilot autonomous trucking

  • August 24, 2020
  • Steve Rogerson

Locomation and Missouri-based Wilson Logistics have completed an on-road autonomous driving pilot programme transporting commercial freight.
The pilot is seen as a significant step for both companies as they pursue the most direct path to delivering commercially viable autonomous technology to the trucking industry.
In the pilot, two Locomation lorries, hauling Wilson Logistics trailers and freight, were deployed as an autonomous relay convoy (ARC) on a 675km long route that stretched from Portland in Orgeon to Nampa in Idaho along the I-84, which has some of the most difficult road conditions in terms of curvatures, grades and wind gusts.
ARC is Locomation’s proprietary approach to autonomous trucking. It allows one driver to pilot a lead lorry equipped with technology while a following lorry operates in tandem through Locomation’s fully autonomous system. This allows the following driver to log off and rest during this time.
“The successful kickoff of this commercial agreement with Wilson Logistics is a significant milestone for our teams,” said Çetin Meriçli, CEO and 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. 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 long pilot phase, ARC covered approximately 5500km and operated autonomously roughly half of the time, delivering 14 commercial loads. At all times during the pilot, each lorry was staffed with a trained driver and a safety engineer tasked with monitoring vehicle and AV system performance, collecting more than two dozen key performance indicators vital to ensuring the successful deployment of this autonomous vehicle technology.
“This test pilot was critical for Wilson Logistics because it proved the true commercial viability of Locomation’s ARC technology,” said Darrel Wilson, CEO of Wilson Logistics. “For our team, it’s the perfect combination of safety improvements, increased asset utilisation, reduced cost per mile and, most importantly, a better driver experience.”
At full commercialisation, Locomation expects its autonomous vehicle technology to produce an estimated 30% reduction in operating cost per kilometre, including 8% reduction in fuel consumption, and remove over 40 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air per convoy annually.
Wilson Logistics risk management consultancy Aon also participated in the pilot 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. 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 agreement will initially operate more than 124 ARC-equipped tractors in two-lorry convoys on 11 segments throughout the USA at peak implementation. The next phase in the partnership anticipates delivering more than 1000 two-lorry convoys representing more than 2000 ARC-equipped lorries operating on more than 68 segments nationwide.
Launched in 2018 by veterans of Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center, Locomation includes some of the world’s foremost experts in robotics technology, safety and artificial intelligence.
Wilson Logistics is a family-owned and operated organisation. It began as Wil-Trans in 1990, a trucking company based in Springfield, Missouri. Through the acquisitions of Jim Palmer Trucking in 2014, O&S Trucking in 2016, RJs Transportation in early-2017, Haney Truck Line in late-2017 and Market Transport in 2019, Wilson Logistics was formed.