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Daimler unveils new driverless truck in Germany

Members of the media were able to see the futuristic truck perform along a section of the A14 autobahn near Magdeburg, Germany, as it was put through its paces in a series of realistic driving situations. (The Trucker: LYNDON FINNEY)

The Trucker News Services

7/3/2014

STUTTGART/MAGDEBURG, Germany — Daimler Trucks unveiled its self-driving “truck of the future” here today, stating the vehicle is a “quantum leap in road freight transport in terms of safety, efficiency and connectivity.”

The highway test pilot for the technologically advanced vehicle will be launched as early as 2025 “if conditions permit,” Daimler officials noted.

“The truck of the future is a Mercedes-Benz that drives itself,” said Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, the member of Daimler’s board of management responsible for Daimler Trucks and Buses.

The truck 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.

Members of the media were able to see the futuristic truck perform along a section of the A14 autobahn near Magdeburg, Germany, as it was put through its paces in a series of realistic driving situations.

Bernhard said the truck “is our response to the major challenges and opportunities associated with road freight transport of the future” including connectivity to its complete environment — the infrastructure and members of the motoring public — and its economy and last but certainly not least, its safety advantages.

“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 said. “That’s why Daimler Trucks is committed to maintain a dialogue with government officials and authorities and with all other parties affected by its development. We believe the chances are good because autonomous driving combines the ability to achieve business and technology objectives with the creation of benefits for society and the environment.”

European Union freight transport volumes are expected to increase by 20 percent between 2008-2025, with trucks expected to continue to account for as much as 75 percent of all road freight in the EU. In Germany alone, road transport could account for nearly 5.5 billion tons by 2025 and “reducing the cost of such shipments would spur economic growth,” Daimler officials said.

A new system deployed on the truck is “predictive powertrain control,” which uses information about road topography and route characteristics to adjust the operation of the drivetrain to maximize fuel economy. Other systems to be deployed in the coming years will be able to communicate with one another and enable vehicles to operate without any driver intervention, especially on highways and major roads.

Daimler made a strong case for autonomous mobility in the driverless vehicles, saying they are comparable to autopilot systems on an airplane, which brings up the fact that truck drivers will still have a job, but a different job profile.

The driver’s duties would be free from the monotony of driving and instead focus on the jobs handled by shippers’ offices such as transport managing.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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