Mercedes tests autonomous truck on German motorway

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Mercedes Benz has carried out its first test of an automated truck on a motorway. A standard Mercedes-Benz Actros was equipped with the intelligent Highway Pilot system for the test of autonomous driving on public roads.

Dr Wolfgang Bernhard, board member of Daimler AG responsible for trucks and buses, undertook the truck’s maiden journey on the A8 motorway.

“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,” he said.

A systems of sensors enables the truck to continually observe the entire area in front of the vehicle and to take control itself in certain situations. If it approaches an obstacle, such as roadworks, the system asks the driver to take over the vehicle. When the roadworks are behind the truck, the Highway Pilot can once again take over control of the vehicle.

Sven Ennerst, head of development Daimler Trucks, said: “We are delighted that Baden-Württemberg has approved these tests for us. 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.”

The Actros is fitted with the 12.8 l engine, OM 471 and all the proven 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.

These systems are linked with the sensors of the Highway Pilot – radar and stereo camera. So 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.

The system maintains the correct distance to the vehicle in front and brakes in good time if another vehicle cuts out onto the road in front of it. The Highway Pilot does not replace the driver, but supports and relieves the strain on them by dealing with monotonous stretches for them and taking care of annoying stop-and-go driving in a traffic jam.

The company points out that in automated mode the driver has control over the truck at all times and in tricky situations can take over driving of the vehicle again. The redundancy in the sensor system and fail-safer components such as the steering and brakes ensure a high safety standard. If the minimum prerequisites for the system are not present due to bad weather or missing road markings, the Highway Pilot issues acoustic and visual impulses to ask the driver to take over. The driver has sufficient time to take over the task of driving. If there is no reaction from the driver, the truck brings itself to a standstill independently and safely.

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