Autonomous cars? Ha! Check out Mercedes’ autonomous semi.

Sections: Car Safety, Telematics

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Mercedes Autonomous Truck Premiere Press Photo

Wolfgang Bernhard, member of Daimler’s Board of Management and the person responsible for Daimler Trucks and Buses, presents the Future Truck 2025 at its world premiere Thursday, July 3 in Magdeburg, Germany. (Photo courtesy Diamler)

Everybody in the auto industry — even Mercedes — is making a lot of noise about autonomous cars. But leave it to the brand you buy when you want to one-up your neighbors’ new Cadillac to itself one-up the autonomous car talks with an autonomous semi truck.

A press release from Mercedes’ global media site said the brand’s truck division has successfully tested an autonomous semi truck on the Autobahn in Germany. Using Mercedes’ intelligent Highway Pilot system, the truck reportedly successfully completed its first autonomous journey on a highway near Magdeburg, Germany.

Wolfgang Bernhard, who is the Diamler board member responsible for Diamler Trucks and Buses division, said, “The truck of the future is a Mercedes-Benz that drives itself.

“Autonomous driving will revolutionize road freight transport and create major benefits for everyone involved,” he added. “With the Future Truck 2025, Diamler Trucks is once again highlighting its pioneering role in innovative technologies and opening up a new era in truck transport. We aim to be the number one manufacturer in this market of the future, which we believe will offer solid revenue and earnings potential.”

When the suits start talking about “solid earnings potential,” you know they’re seeing dollar signs for the future of autonomous vehicles.

The release said Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 was shown to the world for the first time Thursday, July 3. According to Mercedes, the focus is on the truck’s total connectivity with its entire environment, from the driver-who-really-isn’t-driving to the road and surrounding traffic. Though Mercedes officials believe there are plenty of hurdles to overcome, they insist the future of freight transport will become increasingly reliant on autonomous trucks.

Bernhard said, “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. That’s why Diamler 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.”

Here’s the breakdown from Mercedes on how one makes a huge, lumbering semi truck behave nicely once the “autonomous” button is switched on:

The solution for long-distance haulage: the self-driving truck
The Future Truck 2025 offers solutions based on Daimler’s extensive technological expertise. Mercedes-Benz is already the industry leader for driver assistance technology in trucks, having installed hundreds of thousands of proximity cruise control, automatic braking, stability control and lane-keeping assistance systems. Another new system known as “Predictive Powertrain Control” uses information about road topography and route characteristics to adjust the operation of the drivetrain in order to maximize fuel economy.
Additional and improved assistance systems will follow in the coming years. These systems will communicate with one another and enable vehicles to operate without any driver intervention, especially on highways and major roads. The highly intelligent Highway Pilot is comparable to an autopilot system in an airplane, which is probably the most advanced form of autonomous mobility in existence today.
Optimally executed acceleration and braking phases will help to ensure a homogeneous flow of traffic and will reduce fuel consumption and emissions of the Future Truck 2025. Autonomous driving will also enable more precise transport scheduling. Moreover, trucks that communicate with each other can travel more closely together and therefore take up less road space. There would be fewer traffic jams and the associated costs would be reduced. Finally, the lower risk of accidents caused by human error would reduce insurance rates.
Autonomous driving: a new job profile for truckers
The Highway Pilot system will significantly upgrade the job profile of truck drivers. It will not only free them from having to perform monotonous tasks; it will also give them more time for tasks that were previously handled by office workers at shipping companies. In other words, it will be possible for truckers to advance to new positions as transport managers, making truck driving a more attractive profession. Autonomous driving could thus help to resolve the shortage of truck drivers.
Along with numerous new components, the Future Truck 2025 also includes tried and tested systems that are already in use, in passenger cars for example. In this regard, Daimler has once again demonstrated its ability to efficiently transfer technology within the Group. With Highway Pilot, Daimler Trucks is now the world’s first truck manufacturer with plans to develop an autonomous driving system for use in production vehicles.
While I have my own thoughts about any so-called “driver shortage” — pay drivers more, and they’ll come; it’s simple economics — I have to say the future looks intriguing with Mercedes’ efforts in autonomous trucks.
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