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Daimler Future Truck 2025 completes first autonomous highway run

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July 6, 2014

The Daimler autonomous truck may enter service by 2025

The Daimler autonomous truck may enter service by 2025

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Self-driving cars are the next big thing, but with all the talk of sipping latte and reading the morning paper while our cars drive us to work, it's easy to forget about the huge impact this technology will have on other road transport segments such as freight distribution. As part of the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 program, Daimler Trucks has taken the most advanced of its autonomous trucks for a spin on a section of the A14 autobahn near Magdeburg, Germany. Daimler says the vehicle drove itself in "completely realistic driving situations" in front of the media, government officials, business representatives, market analysts, and investors.

According to a study commissioned by Daimler, between 2008 and 2025 the EU will see a 20 percent increase in freight traffic, with trucks carrying 70 percent of road freight. During this time, fuel prices and road tolls will rise, government regulations will increase, and experienced drivers will be at a premium. Daimler sees the key to the future in reducing costs by means of autonomous systems, such as the Future Truck 2025, which aims at making safer, greener, and more efficient robotic trucks that are also more attractive to prospective drivers.

The core of Future Truck 2025 is Daimler’s Highway Pilot system, which is an autonomous driving system designed for production vehicles. Based on Mercedes Benz’s previous work on driver assist and autonomous systems for upmarket passenger cars, it allows trucks to operate with complete autonomy on public roads at speeds up to 53 mph (85 km/h).

Diagram of the Highway Pilot system in operation

The system uses four radar sensors and a 3D camera to assess the area within 60 m (200 ft) of the lorry, with wireless connections to other vehicles and the road infrastructure providing additional information. This, along with traffic and topographic data, allow the vehicle to operate autonomously when the driver passes over control to the system. This allows the driver to relax or work on other tasks while the system provides updates on a touchscreen tablet.

Daimler sees an advanced version of the system in service by 2025, when it could serve to increase traffic flow as vehicles communicate with one another; reducing accidents and traffic jams. It would work by coordinating acceleration and braking, reducing spacing intervals, and eliminating human error. The company says that this would produce savings not only in operation, but in insurance premiums as well. It would also allow drivers to act more like managers, making the position more attractive and improving chances of promotion.

“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,” says Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, the member of Daimler’s Board of Management responsible for Daimler Trucks and Buses. “That’s why Daimler Trucks is committed to maintain a dialogue with government officials and authorities, and with all other parties affected by this development. We believe the chances of success are good, because autonomous driving combines the ability to achieve business and technology objectives with the creation of benefits for society and the environment.”

Source: Daimler

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
8 Comments

I hope this is available in cars also. I need collision warning in my car.

DaveBG
7th July, 2014 @ 01:56 am PDT

At least they are talking sensibly about the driver being closely involved with the act of the vehicle moving from A to B. This is to be applauded seeing as the inevitable accidents will result in less damage and injury. Whether they will survive as autonomous, I have grave doubts.

Mel Tisdale
7th July, 2014 @ 09:36 am PDT

Daimler is too narrowly focused in their quest for "reduced costs". They have correctly identified cost cutting opportunities by reducing regs, labor, tolls, fuel taxes, and insurance. However, their solution is minimal. A giant leap forward could be achieved by "thinking out of the box". What is the source of all these costs? Govt. The long term solution is private roads. The govt. would have no authority on a private roadway. This would eliminate all fuel taxes, tolls, regulations, insurance, and unionized labor. A dedicated roadway could be built/maintained much cheaper than the govt. does it. Imagine not having to submit a "request" to a bureaucrat for every little innovation, and waiting for permission to run your business. Consider all the savings from not needing the attorneys to draw up the paperwork, and "grease the wheels". And they could drop all the politically correct bull about concern about drivers.

Don Duncan
7th July, 2014 @ 10:36 am PDT

Freight systems on land sea and air will be the testbeds for the tech.......pretty obviously truckers and mariners will be going the way of the buggy whip eventually........planes will be the last........even tho they can fly themselves today...........

Vf6cruiser
7th July, 2014 @ 10:41 am PDT

"reducing spacing intervals"

No thanks, they need to be increased for two reasons:

Firstly, there will come a time when a vehicle traveling in the opposite directions mounts the central barrier and crashes into one of these vehicles head on, stopping it much quicker than any emergency stop could. This will, of course, ruin the driver's game that he is playing on his laptop. Only slightly less important will be the fact that if another one of these autonomous lorries is close behind, no matter how quick its computer system reacts, it is limited to emergency brake performance and it will thus likely smash into the lead vehicle. Heaven help any private passenger car that was the meat in that sandwich.

Secondly, cars will need to leave the highway and if these vehicles are close together then they will pose a danger as the exiting vehicle reduces the stopping distance dramatically. Each exit manoeuvre will feel like running the gauntlet, which will not do much for the driver's equilibrium.

It will be bad enough with these vehicles when the driver is effectively in charge. With the Google cars, the 'driver' is supposed to be able to lie back, sipping their café latté, oblivious to all around them. The mind boggles at how any of these autonomous vehicles will cope with a sudden sink hole - not very well, I suspect. For a start, I doubt that the café latté will survive the drop nor any computer game in play.

Mel Tisdale
7th July, 2014 @ 02:29 pm PDT

Anyone with more than half a brain would realize that the increase in road traffic volumes is out of control and the system proposed is a waste of everyone´s time and money.

A strategic approach to road transport would prevent most goods movement by road in excess of 100 kms, and most passenger movement in excess of 200kms thus enforcing the use of the existing rail systems. Exceeding the limits would incur significant cost penalties, though no doubt fudging of some issues where zero emission vehicles are involved would be allowed?

David993
7th July, 2014 @ 02:41 pm PDT

David993, your thinking is somewhat on the right track. But what needs to happen, in my opinion, is replacement of big cargo tractor-trailer rigs, with multiple smaller units. For instance, instead of shipping one trailer full of sixty refrigerators, you have four "road robots" carrying one refrigerator, or 240 robots to carry 60 refrigerators. All robots autonomously operated. No "deadheading" a cargo trailer back to the factory. And, with no drivers, the cargo can travel 100% on electricity (battery) and be carried in relays (drive sixty miles, four new road robots take over, the previous road robots recharge at the transfer station) over 24-48 continuous hours, at energy-saving speeds (45 mph). Don't even get me started on cases of beer!! Those huge cross country rigs, and local delivery behemoths, will be superseded by correctly-scaled smaller autonomous vehicles.

Scott in California
7th July, 2014 @ 04:41 pm PDT

The only point of having a diver-less car is if there really is no driver, rather than a driver sitting there playing with his ipad. If you still have one driver for one truck, the main cost benefit is lost. This will work by having one lead driver with a train of vehicles following the lead truck down down the motorways (initially at night), or by having a the driver running several trucks from a remote location.

Rustgecko
9th July, 2014 @ 01:45 am PDT
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