PORTLAND, Ore. — Daimler Trucks Wednesday said it was creating an Automated Truck Research and Development Center at Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) headquarters on Swan Island in Portland, where DTNA already has a significant research and development presence, including a full-scale heavy-duty truck wind tunnel on Swan Island and the High Desert Proving Grounds nearby in Madras, Oregon.
The center will be dedicated to further developing automated driving technology and understanding its impact on society and benefits for customers, the company said in a news release.
Engineers there will draw on research and development resources from Daimler Trucks locations in Stuttgart, Germany, and Bangalore, India, to form a global network of hundreds of engineers devoted to the topic of automated driving, leveraging the experience and knowledge from previous research performed across Daimler’s vehicle divisions, including passenger cars, according to Roger Nielsen, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America.
The three locations will work very closely together, while R&D activities on automated trucks in Germany will also be expanded to expedite and deepen the company’s efforts in this field.
The research center was announced during Daimler Trucks Capital Market and Technology Day, which attracted global journalists and investors.
The new facility is part of the company’s plans to invest more than $2.943 billion in total research and development activities in 2018 and 2019 with more than $588 million of that earmarked for e-mobility, connectivity and automated commercial vehicle technology.
“We are pioneering technologies across the automated vehicle spectrum that make roads safer and help trucking companies boost productivity,” said Sven Ennerst, head of truck product engineering, global procurement, and Daimler Trucks China. “This center of excellence is part of our global innovation network and supports the Daimler Trucks ethos of rigorously testing new technologies, ensuring systems are developed safely and functionality is fully validated before it is released to customers.”
Daimler Trucks believes that fully autonomous – driverless – commercial trucks will not be series produced in the near future; however, the technology has the potential to create numerous advantages for the global logistics industry by helping fleets to keep up with ever-increasing freight demands as the pool of long-haul truck drivers continues to decrease, Errerst said.
“The focus for Daimler Trucks is to carefully study all requirements for highly automated driving, to ensure any technology brought to market will improve road safety and driver productivity, while enhancing commercial vehicle performance, reliability and uptime for the customer,” he said.
The center will focus its activities on all aspects of development, testing, and validation necessary for high levels of automation.
This includes software, sensors, machine learning, and simulation, as well as the necessary adaptation of the base vehicle platform.
The Automated Truck R&D Center will furthermore be established as a center for co-creation, where customers, suppliers, and business partners can provide input, ensuring the technology is calibrated to real-life applications.
“Our approach to developing highly automated driving technology will draw upon our proven expertise and long history of commercializing safe, reliable, and fully integrated commercial vehicles,” Nielsen said. “We are again aiming for a fully integrated, proven Daimler solution that will provide the best tool for our customers’ needs.” Nielsen continued, “We can accomplish this with a combination of vehicle road testing over millions of miles around the globe and advanced simulation. The global collaboration that takes place among research and development teams at Daimler extends to vans, buses and passenger cars, and each advancement is a building block for the future of automated vehicles.”
Daimler Trucks has a well-established track record of developing automated driving technologies, beginning with active safety systems that have achieved strong market penetration, Neilsen said.
The Detroit Assurance 4.0 suite of safety systems, for example, forms the basis of the sensor systems that will ultimately be used in highly automated applications.
One recent development out of the area of automated truck driving, platooning (known as pairing when two vehicles are used), was demonstrated with paired trucks as part of the Daimler Trucks Capital Market and Technology Day at Portland International Raceway.
Using the sophisticated radar and camera sensor systems currently available as part of Detroit Assurance, along with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), braking is coordinated across platooned vehicles and steering is partially automated to keep the trucks in the center of their lanes. The following trucks in the platoon respond to braking commands in less than three tenths of a second – significantly faster than a human can react – which allows for close following distances. The platooning demonstration illustrates the safety and fuel efficiency benefits the company delivers through its automated technology leadership.
The first real-world operation testing of platooning in the U.S. is in preparation.
DTNA is working with top customers on the technology to validate the practicality of hauling commercial freight with platooned vehicles, the news release said.