Daimler already took the first step towards autonomously driving trucks one year ago, when the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 passed a test with flying colours on a closed-off section of motorway in Germany. Neither did the system encounter any problems in a subsequent endurance test covering 16,000 kilometres on a closed-off route. The US state of Nevada has now given the green light for test operations on public highways.
EYE-CATCHING MATURITY TRIALS
Slim headlamps with blue LED light bands which are repeated in the sides of the front apron and the radiator grille distinguish the Inspiration Truck from the Freightliner Cascadia on which the prototype is based. Two of these eye-catching test vehicles are now to start driving autonomously on the roads of North America to help improve the technology to production maturity. To this end the two trucks are crammed with modern technology. “We use near-series sensor systems,” says Sven Ennerst, Head of Global Development at Daimler Trucks.
Known as the “Highway Pilot”, the technology consists of two radar sensors located in the vehicle’s front apron. There are also a stereo camera and a number of assistance systems such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Active Brake Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist.
The two radar sensors have different purposes: the long-range sensor is responsible for predictive driving, scanning the road to a distance of 250 metres with an arc of 18 degrees. The second radar sensor sends out its signals with an arc of 130 degrees, but has a range of only 70 metres. Thanks to the wide field of vision, other vehicles cutting in can be recognised at an early stage and the driving style adapted accordingly. The same applies to the long-range sensor, which registers traffic travelling ahead and reduces the speed if necessary, while the camera with a range of 100 metres follows the road markings to keep the Inspiration Truck on course. All of these components have already absolved many thousands of kilometres in production vehicles.