Freightliner tested semi-autonomous trucks on Oregon highways

Freightliner tests semi self-driving trucks

PORTLAND, Ore. — Freightliner has tested partially self-driving trucks on Oregon highways and Intel plans self-driving car tests in the future, KGW has learned.

The information was discovered in response to a public records request sent to the state.

The records obtained by KGW also reveal that Intel planned to test a self-driving car, a black Range Rover, on Highway 26 between Brookwood Parkway and Glencoe Road, last July. The test was scheduled twice but according to an Intel spokeswoman did not actually take place.

The spokeswoman, Robin Holt, said she could not share the reason for the test not happening. The company still plans future tests in Oregon, Holt said. The tests will have a driver in the seat just in case something goes wrong.

"We will have a safety driver any time we are testing the technology. As long as we’re testing the technology they will not be out there with nobody in them,” Holt said.

Intel did not plan to alert the public during its initial testing plans. Holt said future tests will likely not include public notice. When asked why, Holt said, “There’s a fair amount of skepticism in the public about the technology.”

According to the documents, Freightliner tested the “platooning” of semitrailers on Interstate 84 in the spring and fall of 2017. Platooning involves having one semi follow another, getting as close as 50 to 80 feet.

Computers allow the first truck to take over acceleration and braking on the second truck to keep it in the first truck's slipstream. The testing involves only two trucks but could be used with multiple vehicles creating a convoy.

Both trucks have drivers behind the wheel in case something goes wrong, according to the documents. The second driver does not control acceleration or braking.

"It allows us to confirm the integration of components on vehicles and drive acceptance of systems, and take fuel economy measurements to see if we are getting the savings expected," said Freightliner spokeswoman Kary Schaefer.

The company tested platooning between Troutdale and Hood River in the spring of 2017. The testing grounds moved east to Biggs Junction and stretched to Arlington on Sept. 1, 2017. Freightliner told the state it would test the concept through Sept. 20.

The tests by Freightliner were done without public notice. The company did inform the state and state police about a name that would be on the side of the trucks so they could be identified. The name is “New Cascadia."

There are no laws in Oregon that regulate self-driving cars or trucks, other than the laws and rules that cover all vehicles. Companies are not required to tell the state when and where they are testing.

In April, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and City Commissioner Dan Saltzman signed a directive instructing the Portland Bureau of Transportation to create policies regarding the development of self-driving cars, as well as solicit proposals from companies to test the cars on the streets of Portland by the end of 2017.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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