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Daimler self-driving truck completes public road test

Posted: 06 Oct 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Daimler  self-driving truck  adaptive cruise control  autopilot 

Daimler has accomplished the first test drive of its self-driving truck on Autobahn A8 near Stuttgart, a public highway known for its high traffic density. Compared to earlier trials, the company used a series vehicle this time, equipped for partially automated driving on highways.

On board during the test ride were Wolfgang Bernhard, head of Daimler's Trucks and Buses division, along with Winfried Kretschmann, minister president of the state of Baden-Wurttemberg.

The autopilot system, labelled Highway Pilot, enables the truck to perform semi-autonomous driving. While the electronic driver has control over steering wheel and gas pedal, the human driver needs to stay in its place; he remains in charge, requiring him to constantly monitor the traffic and being able to intervene at any time. The system utilises a front radar, a stereo camera and several "usual suspects" among the variety of driver assistance systems such as adaptive cruise control. According to Daimler, the interplay of the systems has been tested thoroughly; the Highway Pilot has more than 20,000km of driving experience in Germany and the U.S.

Daimler self-driving truck

For the sake of safety, the engineers have designed significant redundancies into the electronics, enabling it to react adequately even under adverse circumstances. In case the weather conditionings are worsening significantly or the road markings are becoming unidentifiable, the system issues a request to the driver to continue manually. The driver has enough time to take over, but if he fails to react on the acoustic and optical signals, the Highway Pilot brings the truck safely and autonomously to a full stop at the kerbside.

Before testing the Highway Pilot on Baden-Wurttemberg's A8, Daimler introduced the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck in Mageburg (Germany) in 2014; in 2015 the company showed the Freightliner Inspiration Truck in Nevada, U.S. The Freightliner Inspiration Truck was globally the first autonomously driving truck to receive an admission to drive on public roads.

Daimler believes that autonomous trucks have a big future: Since gear-switching, acceleration and braking is controlled by algorithms, they significantly can reduce power consumption; experts estimate this effect to some seven per cent. In addition, the driver could be productive while his truck rolls along the highway: The driver then could perform the paperwork and documentation tasks.

- Christoph Hammerschmidt
  EE Times Europe

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