Germany has seen the world's first autonomous production truck operate on a public highway last week, albeit still in a test set-up.
The truck used for the premiere was a standard Mercedes-Benz Actros equipped with the company’s Highway Pilot system, and not a pilot vehicle, as Daimler pointed out.
“[This] premiere is a further important step towards the market maturity of autonomously driving trucks – and towards the safe, sustainable road freight transport of the future“, commented Dr Wolfgang Bernhard, the Daimler Board Member responsible for the truck business, who used the occasion to trial the technology himself.
Sven Ennerst, Head of Development Daimler Trucks, added, “We are delighted that [the state of] Baden-Württemberg has approved these tests for us. And we are of course also delighted that the German Technical Inspection Authority has so clearly confirmed the safety of our system.“
Ennerst explained that a combination of new-generation assistance and safety systems and sensors enables the truck to continually observe the entire area in front of the vehicle and take control itself in certain situations
“The Actros meticulously keeps to its lane and maintains the optimum distance to the vehicle in front of it.
Should the distance become too small or if a vehicle cuts in front of it, the truck brakes. If it approaches an obstacle … the system asks the driver to take over the vehicle.”
The Actros in question was fitted with a 12.8-litre engine and a host of standard assistance and safety systems, such as Mercedes PowerShift 3, Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC), Active Brake Assist 3, proximity control, drowsiness detection and a Fleetboard vehicle computer.
The systems were linked with the sensors of the Highway Pilot’s radar and stereo camera.
“All the technology of the Actros with Highway Pilot is in the vehicle, and the truck does not need the Internet for its automated driving function,” said Ennerst.
After presenting the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 on a test track in Germany in 2014 and the world premiere of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck in the US earlier this year, Daimler Trucks is hoping this latest milestone has brought the industry closer to real-life applications for autonomous vehicles.
“We are shaping the future of transportation with the first autonomously driving production truck,” said Bernhard.