Ingo Scherhaufer spends his days at Daimler Trucks working toward a world without accidents. Together with his team, the Head of Active Safety has developed another life-saving safety architecture for the new Actros.
Mr. Scherhaufer, "Zero Accidents" – is this Utopia or an achievable goal?
Accident-free driving is part of our sustainable corporate strategy and a clearly stated goal. We will continue working on this until not a single accident occurs. Most of all we want to banish serious accidents from the road – if we get to a point when all we are talking about is minor damage, we will have come a long way.
You work every day to increase standards – and have done for some 25 years. What aspects of road safety fascinates you?
I´ve always been into assistance systems and active safety - they´re topics that fascinate me to this day. And you´re right - I have a long history at our company. 25 years ago, I was lucky enough to be involved in the development of the first assistance system for the 1998 S-Class. I took my experience and expertise with me to the Trucks division at the turn of the millennium. It is incredibly exciting to be part of such innovations and to know that we are often the first and only ones able to offer such systems. But even our vehicles are not immune from accidents, otherwise our work would be done. We work day in and day out to further develop and improve our systems - this is our incentive.
One of the safety and assistance systems on board the new Actros is Active Drive Assist for partially automated driving. How have the test drivers reacted to this?
Initially with skepticism, ultimately with euphoria! During customer testing, we wanted to know truck drivers' reservations about partially automated driving. We are pleased with the result after the road tests! The convenient assistance, especially during monotonous freeway driving, particularly appealed to them. That's because not only can the Actros accelerate and brake autonomously, it can also stay in lane and negotiate curves by itself. The drivers were also enthusiastic about the robustness of the safety systems in day-to-day use. These systems intervene at exactly the point when danger is imminent. This is also the case with the new Active Brake Assist 5, which can respond with hard braking if it comes to the worst - when a pedestrian is in danger, for example.
A driver should unlearn behavioral patterns acquired through training when driving a partially automated vehicle. How much does the driver still have to do in the new Actros?
The driver still has full responsibility and must keep a close eye on the traffic conditions. What's new is that we create the optimum conditions for the driver to do this. When steering, for example, the driver receives convenient assistance, although the hands must remain on the steering wheel. Our tests show that, after a two or three-hour drive, the driver gets out of the vehicle feeling more relaxed thanks to the assistance systems.
What if the driver is inattentive in the event of upcoming danger?
We know from accident research that drivers often fail to brake hard enough or at all when they are overburdened – or inattentive. In the event of danger, our safety systems warn the driver, giving them valuable time to make a decision and react quickly and correctly. This is the philosophy behind our assistance systems: To give truck drivers the best possible support in their daily work.
What other assistance systems in the new Actros can be lifesavers for drivers and other road users?
Everything that widens the field of view. Many people each year still get injured in collisions with trucks in Germany. The new Actros now has two systems that can help: the MirrorCam and Sideguard Assist. The MirrorCam is more intelligent than any conventional truck mirrors since it operates with digital cameras whose images are sent to displays on the A-pillars. This basically gives drivers a 360-degree view - so that they always know what's happening around the vehicle. The MirrorCam and Sideguard Assist work hand in hand to monitor the right-hand vehicle area: Sideguard Assist uses the MirrorCam display to give the driver a visual warning if there is a cyclist or pedestrian alongside the truck. If there is then a risk of a collision when starting off, a more noticeable visual warning and an audible warning follow. This means that we can defuse a situation that really worries truck drivers.
What long-term economic advantages does a safety-optimized Actros offer fleet operators?
The benefits are obvious: It´s about protecting the driver and preventing serious accidents. Truck collisions also often involve major damage to one's own vehicle - in which case costs can escalate quickly. Here the investment in safety systems starts to pay off after the first avoided incident already! Incidentally, this is the reason why such safety systems are already standard for hazardous goods vehicles in the petroleum industry.
The goal of the EU General Safety Regulation is to halve the number of serious injuries and accident deaths by 2030. What is your take on such regulations?
At Daimler we support such initiatives. It is only possible to achieve a widespread impact if safety systems are available in all vehicles. It is important to distinguish which systems are sensible for which vehicle segments, however. A van like the Sprinter and an Atego truck have totally different operating profiles. A bus with standing passengers cannot be viewed in the same way as a truck with just one person on board. Each segment has different accident situations. But the law does not make a distinction here. This requires more clarification and discussion.
Are there further leverage points for achieving sustainable road safety?
Most truck accidents happen as a result of rear-end collisions and lane departures. We as a manufacturer offer a wealth of assistance systems to combat these situations. Things become more complex in the case of busier road traffic, such as at an intersection, which involves different road-users and quickly changing situations. All those involved need to be better networked to overcome these challenges.
According to experts, the global transport volume in the haulage sector will more than double between 2015 and 2050. How can we cope with this increase without causing traffic chaos?
A very interesting question! We are already developing solution scenarios at Daimler Trucks. To this end, we call upon a vast pool of knowledge acquired over many years of developing driver assistance systems – throughout the entire Daimler Group. Initial prototype solutions will hit the road in the coming years.
You give one-hundred percent energy for "zero" accidents – what drives you on the road to achieving the goal of accident-free driving?
I am utterly convinced that our developments have saved many lives. Ultimately this is what really drives us.