Convoys of Automated Trucks Set to Point Way to Driverless Cars

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Michael Kropp typically spends his days behind the wheel of a big, freight-hauling truck, navigating the high-speed curves, offramps, and stop-and-go traffic typical of European highways. Kropp was one of about 30 drivers participating in a test of a new automated driving technology called platooning, which links trucks via Wi-Fi, GPS, sensors, and cameras so they can travel semiautonomously behind one another. The leading rig dictates speed and direction, while the rest automatically steer, accelerate, and brake in a closely spaced convoy. "It was a little eerie to hand over part of my role as driver," says Kropp, a 55-year-old test driver for Daimler who piloted the second vehicle in the caravan. "But it was really comfortable, especially in heavy traffic or boring stretches of road."