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Self-driving Future Truck Turns Heads at IAA Show in Germany

September 25, 2014 By: Trucking News Staff Tags: Equipment, Technology
self drive

The Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 made its first big public splash during a demonstration alongside a section of the A14 autobahn near Magdeburg, Germany this past summer.

But that media unveiling didn’t spoil the debut of the autonomously driving truck this week at the 65th International Motor Show for commercial vehicles in Hanover, Germany.

That’s because the Future Truck 2025 is seen as much more than just a new truck. It is a key component of the transport system of the future, according to Mercedes-Benz representatives in Germany. It’s sparing on resources, reduces emissions of all types, ensures maximum road traffic safety and increases the level of networking in road transport.

Delivering goods in the future will be safer, more efficient and more connected as a result, company reps say. The Future Truck 2025 thus marks a revolution for road traffic and its infrastructure, the truck driving profession and the haulage industry as a whole.

The Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 isn’t a concept vehicle. In fact, its developers say it should be on the highways in a decade, and many of its technological elements are already available and ready to use.

“This truck provides compelling answers to the challenges that our customers will be facing in the future,” said Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, Daimler board member for trucks and buses, at the presentation of the innovative vehicle in Hanover. “Our aim therefore is to press forward with readying this technology for the market and to bring it to series-production standard.

“What we are showing here today is how the transport of goods on our roads will be running more efficient, safer and more connected in 10 years’ time.”

During the demonstration in July, Daimler Trucks showed off the capabilities of the Future Truck 2025 by driving autonomously at speeds of up to 80 km/h in realistic traffic situations. Spectators saw that the Future Truck doesn’t need to be daisy-chained to other vehicles, or become part of a platoon.

Radar sensors and camera technology enable the Future Truck 2025 to drive autonomously, independently of other vehicles or central control stations. Networking with other trucks or passenger cars extends its abilities further, but is not necessary for autonomous driving. All this technology is brought together by Mercedes-Benz in the highly intelligent Highway Pilot system, which resembles the autopilot system on an aircraft.

All sensors on board the Future Truck 2025 are networked and, through a process of data fusion in the central computer, provide a complete image of the surroundings. All moving and stationary objects in the truck’s vicinity are registered. The sensor and camera technology is active from standstill to the legally permitted maximum speed for trucks.

By intervening in the steering, it automatically keeps the truck safely in the center of its lane. The system also includes a three-dimensional digital map, as is already currently used for the assistance system Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC). This means that the truck is always fully aware of the road’s course and topography, with a resulting positive effect on fuel consumption.

A new feature in the Future Truck 2025 is Blind Spot Assist — itself a technological breakthrough when it comes to safety — which Daimler will bring into series in the coming years. Radar sensors monitor the sides of the truck and alert the driver to the presence of other road users to either side of the vehicle who may not be immediately visible.

The design of the Future Truck 2025 also helps to convey the tremendous step that has been made from the classic truck to the autonomous transport vehicle. On the exterior, for example, it features cameras instead of conventional exterior mirrors. This improves the truck’s aerodynamics, which improves its efficiency.

The interior appointments of the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 reflect the aim of providing any driver of this autonomously driving truck with a space in which to work and relax that is geared specifically to their new needs. Displays replace instruments, a touchpad the conventional array of switches. During autonomous driving phases the driver’s seat, which can be swiveled by 45 degrees, becomes an office chair or even an easy chair, from which the driver can perform other tasks or perhaps touch base with friends or family.

To communicate from this workplace of the future during autonomous driving phases the driver uses a tablet computer. On long routes driven autonomously, the tablet computer will in future become as crucial a working tool as currently the steering wheel and pedals. Drivers will use it to process documents, schedule in additional destinations, accept further orders and arrange their next break. The computer’s screen can be configured to suit individual requirements. The driver can also use it to call up any essential trip data that may be required.

The Future Truck 2025 also adds to the appeal of driving as a profession by making the work involved more complex and fulfilling and, at the same time, by allowing more scope for social needs. What is more, the Future Truck 2025 reduces impact on the environment, optimizes road use, improves traffic flow and reduces the risk of accidents.

“We already have the strongest product portfolio that we have ever had. To ensure that things stay this way, we continue to invest around a billion euros each year into research and development,” said Bernhard.

With the introduction of the Future Truck 2025, Daimler has kick-started the discussion about the framework conditions that will be required around trucks that drive autonomously and thus about the future of goods transport on highways.

“The challenge now is to leverage this momentum and to continue our open dialogue with all parties involved, so that in 10 years’ time, the autonomously driving truck will indeed have become an accepted feature on our roads,” Bernhard said.