Daimler premieres the “truck of tomorrow”

What will the truck of the future look like?

Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, a member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Daimler trucks and buses, believes it will be a truck that drives itself and allows truck drivers to safely be more productive while behind the wheel.

Not only does an autonomous-driving vehicle ensure more safety on the roads, said Bernhard, it also saves money and relieves its driver of stress and fatigue in monotonous traffic situations.

Autonomous driving will also enable more efficient transport, he added. Trucks that communicate with each other can travel more closely together and therefore take up less road space. There would be fewer traffic jams and the associated costs would be reduced, as would CO2 emissions. Moreover, the lower risk of accidents caused by human error would reduce insurance rates.

Daimler is one of the biggest producers of premium cars and the world’s biggest manufacturer of commercial vehicles with a global reach.

 

World premier

He, along with other top Daimler officials, premiered the company’s self-driving Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 last week on a new section of the A14 autobahn in Saxony-Anhalt, near Magdeburg, Germany, in realistic driving situations.

The truck, a new Actros model, is equipped with the “extremely intelligent” Highway Pilot assistance system, which enables it to drive completely autonomously at speeds of up to 85 km/h – about 53 mph, Bernhard explained. The world's first autonomously driving truck, it drives along all by itself by communicating with its surroundings.

In Europe, trucks are required to stay in the right hand lane and are limited to 80 km/h – about 50 mph.

Connectivity is the basis for this technical quantum leap. The focus is the connectivity of the truck with its complete environment. This encompasses the driver and vehicle, the infrastructure and other traffic participants, and is based on intelligent networking of all the safety systems already available, plus cameras, radar sensors and vehicle-to-vehicle communication.

 

Technology takes the wheel

With the Highway Pilot system, which is comparable to an autopilot system in an airplane, the truck communicates with its environment and drivers autonomously. The driver switches the system on and then takes his hands off the wheel. The in-cab display confirms this with: "Highway Pilot active."

When this mode change takes place, the tractor trailer travels at the set speed in the center of the right-hand lane. Using the truck's intelligent sensors and computing power, the steering carries out slight corrections by itself.

When the driver wants to relax, he presses a button on the seat armrest and the driver's seat moves backwards and pivots to the right by 45 degrees for a comfortable seating position. The driver is able to stretch his legs in comfort, as if sitting in an armchair at home.

The rig of the future is now moving smoothly with the traffic at its set cruising speed, maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle ahead and staying on course.

Even gusting crosswinds do not bring the truck off-track, as the technology corrects its course more rapidly and safely than any human driver, noted a Daimler official.

With the truck driving autonomously, the driver can, through vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications, compose an email; take a look at the proposed navigation route;   choose a suitable truck stop for the next break, pre-order a meal and reserve a parking space; and more.

 

Future Truck 2025 pays attention

The traffic of tomorrow will, like today, have its share of unforeseen incidents and breakdowns, occasionally slowdowns and complete stops. Regardless, the Future Truck 2025 smoothly adapts to the conditions.

For example, if an emergency vehicle is approaching from behind, with the Highway Pilot on, a message appears in the display: "Emergency vehicle approaching.” The information comes from the emergency vehicle by vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication.

The truck automatically moves over to the right until it reaches the lane marking, clearing the way for the fast-moving emergency vehicle, and then returns to the center of its lane. Meanwhile, the driver remains in his working position and merely observes the scene.

The Highway Pilot is also able to report, in advance, a broken down vehicle ahead on the right shoulder and automatically moves left to the centerline, passing the broken down vehicle while keeping a safe distance, as it also has its “eye” on the traffic in the left lane. After passing the obstacle, the truck returns to the right-hand lane and accelerates back to its cruising speed.

 

The driver retains control

In autonomous mode, when the display reports a slow-moving vehicle ahead, the Mercedes Benz Future Truck 2025 will patiently follow the vehicle at a safe distance.  But when passing is worthwhile, for example a large difference in speeds, the driver pivots the seat into the driving position, takes over manual control and passes. Returning to his lane, he can then hand control back to the Highway Pilot.

Daimler officials emphasized that the driver of the autonomous truck is always in full control and can always override the technology by steering, braking or accelerating as required.

 

Radar sensors and a camera

The Future Truck 2025 has a radar sensor in the lower area of the vehicle’s front that scans the road ahead at long and short range. This sensor has a range of 250 m and scans an 18-degree segment.

The short-range sensor has a range of 70 m and scans a 130-degree segment.

The radar sensor is the basis for the Daimler’s Proximity Control Assist and Emergency Braking Assist systems that are already available today.

The area ahead of the truck is also scanned by a stereo camera located above the dash support behind the windshield. This is currently the location of a mono-camera if the optional Lane Keeping Assist is spec’d.

The range of the stereo camera is 100 m. It scans an area of 45 degrees horizontally and 27 degrees vertically.

The stereo camera identifies single- and double-lanes, pedestrians, moving and stationary objects, all objects within the monitored area and the condition of the road surface. The camera recognizes everything that contrasts with the background and, is therefore, also able to measure clearances precisely.

The front stereo camera also registers the information on traffic signs.

In addition to object and distance recognition, the stereo camera recognizes lane markings as a major function for autonomous track guidance.

The road surface to the left and right of the truck is monitored by radar sensors installed in the sides. They are located on the left and right, ahead of the tractor unit's rear axle.

The sensors have a range of 60 m and cover an angle of 170 degrees.

 

Fusion of the data from all sensors

The sensors are networked (multisensor fusion) and provide a complete image of the surroundings. All moving and stationary objects in the truck's vicinity are registered.

Fusion of the data from the front radar sensor, side radar sensors and front camera is done by a high-performance, multi-core processor in the central computer that provides a continuous view of the entire area in front of and beside the truck. For comparison, the human eye has a 150-degree angle of vision but its focal area is a fraction of this.

The sensor system of the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 already comes from the next generation of this technology. The sensors work so precisely that they can not only recognize the road edge by the marker lines, but even identify the course of the road surface by the roadside features (e.g. guardrails or vegetation).

The sensor and camera technology is active throughout the speed range from standstill to the legally permitted maximum truck speed of 80 km/h. By intervening in the steering, it automatically keeps the truck safely in the center of its lane.

The system also includes a three-dimensional digital map, which is already used for Daimler’s assistance system Predictive Powertrain Control. This means that the truck is always fully aware of the road's course and topography.

In addition, the digital map and the information from multisensor fusion are used to determine the truck's own position.

 

Need for ongoing dialogue

The world premiere of Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 featured an impressive demonstration of the truck's technology in the presence of several hundred media representatives (including Fleet Maintenance), government officials, businesspeople, capital market analysts and investors.

The Future Truck 2025 demonstrated its abilities while in interspersed traffic, traveling at both fast and slow speed, with emergencies vehicle and with breakdowns alongside the highway.

In addition, Daimler held a conference on the future of freight transport with the involvement of renowned industry experts. The goal of the event was to establish an ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders about the conditions for transport in the future, in which self-driving trucks will play a major role.

"If the legislative framework for autonomous driving can be created quickly, the launch of the Highway Pilot is conceivable by the middle of the next decade," Bernhard explained. "That's why Daimler is committed to maintain a dialogue with government officials and authorities, and with all other parties affected by this development.

“We believe the chances of success are good, because autonomous driving combines the ability to achieve business and technology objectives with the creation of benefits for society and the environment."

"With the Future Truck 2025, Daimler is once again highlighting its pioneering role in innovative technologies and is opening up a new era in truck transport,” continued Bernhard. “We aim to be the number one manufacturer in this market of the future.”

 

More to come

The Future Truck 2025 offers solutions based on Daimler's extensive technological expertise. Mercedes-Benz, one of Daimler’s brands, is already the industry leader for driver assistance technology in trucks.

Other brands include Freightliner, Western Star, Thomas Built Buses and Fuso.

Additional and improved assistance systems will follow in the coming years, Bernhard said. These systems will communicate with one another and enable vehicles to operate without any driver intervention, especially on highways and major roads.

 

The complete details

A complete report on the world premiere of the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck, along with details of the vehicle, can be found at: http://www.vehicleservicepros.com/search?q=Mercedes-Benz+Future+Truck+2025.

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