German automobile maker Daimler successfully trialled a new automated truck on the Autobahn, with the ‘highway pilot’ system driving for 14km around Stuttgart.
When you think of self-driving cars in general, if it’s not just fear and dread that fills your mind, you might also consider motorways as the ideal starting ground for these ideas. Daimler thinks this, too.
When you consider that cruise-control settings in cars (and trucks) are essentially tailored for long, monotonous, continuous journeys, automated driving should really be looking here too.
Daimler’s test was part of its Future Truck 2025 project, with a bunch of radars, cameras and speed regulators taking on most of the driver’s role.
However, if it’s the livelihood of drivers that you care most about fear not as, in Daimler’s project, a driver needs to sit at the wheel anyway. Just in case.
“We are delighted that Baden-Württemberg has approved these tests for us,” said Sven Ennerst, head of development at Daimler Trucks.
“In so doing the state is demonstrating true pioneering spirit. And we are of course also delighted that the German Technical Inspection Authority has so clearly confirmed the safety of our system.”
Daimler board member Wolfgang Bernhard was the test dummy for the project, taking the truck from a service station onto the A8 in Germany.
Once he got into the right-hand continuous lane, ‘highway mode’ enabled. In this mode, the truck slows when it needs to, stops when it needs to and drives when it needs to.
Meanwhile “both vehicle occupants are sitting comfortably in the functional and modern cab and are chatting in a relaxed fashion,” according to Daimler. Truck drivers love the chats.
There are three radars on the front of the truck, plus cameras and Daimler’s ‘Adaptive Cruise Control’ system.
If the road becomes a bit too risky due to weather problems, or road markings are less visible, the truck prompts the “chatting” driver to take over.
“Today’s 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,” said Bernhard.
“Safe testing in real traffic is absolutely decisive for the development of this technology to market maturity. We are now able to proceed with this.”
Main image via Shutterstock