Daimler Trucks is the pioneer of automated driving and has a clear roadmap to the fully automated truck. The goal is to make roads safer and help trucking companies boost productivity.
In 2014 Daimler Trucks presented the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025, the world’s first automated truck, as the manufacturer first to demonstrate the technological opportunities and great potential automated trucks have for the economy and society. In 2015 the Freightliner Inspiration Truck received the first road license ever for an automated commercial vehicle.
With Active Drive Assist (Mercedes-Benz Actros) and Detroit Assurance 5.0 with Active Lane Assist (new Freightliner Cascadia), Daimler Trucks is already bringing partially automated driving features into series production (SAE Level 2). The new system can independently brake, accelerate and steer. Unlike systems that only work above a certain speed, Active Drive Assist / Detroit Assurance 5.0 make partially automated driving possible for the driver in all speed ranges for the first time in a series production truck. Active lateral control and the connection of longitudinal or lateral control in all speed ranges are new thanks to the fusion of radar and camera information.
Next, Daimler Trucks aims for highly automated trucks (SAE level 4). In commercial trucking, level 4 is the natural next step after level 2, increasing efficiency and productivity for customers, cutting costs per mile significantly. At the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Daimler Trucks announced that it will invest more than EUR 500 million (more than 570 million USD) over the next years in its global push to bring highly automated trucks to the road within a decade.
While doing that, Daimler Trucks follows three basic beliefs: First, safety has absolute priority; everything must be 100% reliable. Second: Daimler Trucks develops products together with its customers. Third: A clear legal and regulatory framework for operation and liability is needed.
Highly automated trucks offer enormous advantages in many areas. In today’s society, there is a growing desire for safer roads and more sustainable transport solutions – precisely where level 4 trucks can make a considerable contribution. They enhance safety in traffic thanks to a redundancy of systems and a multitude of sensors and systems that never get tired or lose attention – because a great majority of accidents today are still due to human error. Level 4 highly automated trucks also improve efficiency and productivity, among other things, through higher utilization of the vehicles – practically around the clock. They also make it possible to travel during light traffic times such as at night, and thus avoid traffic jams by intelligent route management. This has positive effects for truck customers and for the entire economy: the competitiveness of an economy is strongly correlated with the efficiency of logistics. This aspect becomes more and more relevant as global road freight volume is expected to more than double between 2015 and 2050.
Daimler Trucks begins testing automated trucks on public roads
Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics are actively developing and testing automated trucks with SAE Level 4 intent technology on public roads. The initial routes are on highways in southwest Virginia, where Torc Robotics is headquartered. All automated runs require both an engineer overseeing the system and a highly trained safety driver certified by Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics. All safety drivers hold a commercial driver’s license and are specially trained in vehicle dynamics and automated systems. The deployment on public roads takes place after months of extensive testing and safety validation on a closed loop track. As part of the comprehensive safety process by Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics, both test track and on-road validation play an integral role in establishing the essential building blocks for successfully advancing automated technology.
Daimler Trucks established the Autonomous Technology Group
As part of its roadmap, Daimler Trucks established the Autonomous Technology Group as a global organization for automated driving. It brings together Daimler’s worldwide expertise and activities. The main tasks of the new unit comprise overall strategy and implementation of the automated driving roadmap, including research and development as well as setting up the required operations infrastructure and network. All with the goal of reaching series production of highly automated trucks. Highly automated driving is characterized as automated travel between defined hubs and in defined areas without any expectation of the system that a user will respond to a request to intervene. (here more)
Torc: software experts, part of the Autonomous Technology Group
The U.S. company Torc is now part of Daimler Trucks and of the newly established Autonomous Technology Group of Daimler Trucks. The truck manufacturer is consolidating all its expertise and activities in autonomous driving into the global organization with locations in Blacksburg and Portland in the U.S. and in Stuttgart, Germany. Both companies complement each other perfectly, with Torc’s expertise in agile software development and Daimler Trucks’ experience in delivering reliable and safe truck hardware. Torc Robotics will remain a separate entity and retain its name, team, existing customers and facilities in Blacksburg. Torc is one of the world’s most experienced companies in the field of autonomous driving – with highly sophisticated, roadworthy technology and years of expertise with heavy-duty commercial vehicles. “Asimov”, Torc’s system for autonomous driving, has been proven in urban and long-distance routes as well as in rain, snow, fog and varying light conditions.
Portland tailors vehicle chassis and infrastructure for automated driving
Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) will focus on further evolving automated driving technology and vehicle integration for heavy-duty trucks. The DTNA team is working on a truck chassis perfectly suited for automated driving, with the redundancy of systems needed to provide the maximum level of reliability and the maximum level of safety. Within the Autonomous Technology Group, DTNA is also building the infrastructure required for operational testing. This consists of a main control center and logistics hubs. These hubs are located near customers of Daimler Trucks and within close proximity of interstates and highways. Conventionally driven trucks will perform the pickup and delivery of goods, while the automated trucks operate the hub-to-hub portion of the route.
Level 4 automated driving improves safety, efficiency and competitiveness
Highly automated trucks (level 4) offer enormous advantages in many areas. In today’s society, there is a growing desire for safer roads and more sustainable transport solutions – and level 4 trucks can considerably contribute to that. They enhance safety in traffic thanks to a redundancy of systems and a multitude of sensors and systems that never get tired or lose attention – because today, a great majority of accidents are still due to human error. Level 4 highly automated trucks also improve efficiency and productivity, among other things, through higher utilization of the vehicles – practically around the clock. They also make it possible to travel during light traffic times, such as at night, and thus avoid traffic jams by intelligent route management. This has positive effects for truck customers and for the entire economy: and the competitiveness of an economy is strongly correlated with the efficiency of its logistics. This aspect becomes more and more relevant as global road freight volume is expected to more than double between 2015 and 2050.
Daimler Trucks reassessing the benefits of platooning
Moving forward with its innovation roadmap, Daimler Trucks is reassessing its view on platooning. Daimler Trucks defines platooning as the electronic coupling of two or more trucks with significantly reduced distance between them to, in theory, improve aerodynamics and therefore save fuel. Daimler Trucks has tested platooning for several years, particularly in the U.S., where benefits would be expected to be the most substantial. Results show that fuel savings, even in perfect platooning conditions, are less than expected and that those savings are further diminished when the platoon gets disconnected and the trucks must accelerate to reconnect. At least for U.S. long-distance applications, analysis currently shows no business case for customers driving platoons with new, highly aerodynamic trucks. Daimler Trucks will, of course, remain committed to all partner projects that are still ongoing.