Breaking the barriers to a brighter future

July 10, 2014

With plenty of talk about driverless and autonomous vehicles such as Google’s driverless car, Amazon’s package delivery by drone concept, and other such technological achievements, it’s important to remember that while many of these final products are years, if not decades, away, they provide an important base on which to build technologies that can help almost immediately.

(The Google driverless car)

Take, for instance, the Innovation Truck 2014, unveiled this week in Aldenhoven, Germany, by ZF. The truck is operated at low speeds through a tablet computer, allowing a user or driver to maneuver the vehicle around a yard, a port, or other such area while standing up to 330 ft. away.

According to ZF experts who have spent the past 10 months designing the system, they envision scenarios where drivers can pull into a yard, hand their truck over to a local worker who will maneuver the truck, drop a trailer, pick up a new one, reposition the vehicle for loading or unloading. The result, they say, is the driver doesn’t spend time doing these chores, allowing him to take mandated rest breaks and therefore improving drive time and efficiency.

A similar project was unveiled last week at a Daimler event in Germany. Daimler showed off its Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025, which operates on a system that company calls “Highway Pilot.”

Operating in a similar manner, through a tablet, to ZF’s innovation, the Future Truck can actually “drive itself” on a highway at posted speeds without driver interaction. But, a driver must remain in the vehicle and is queried periodically by the system to ensure he has not fallen asleep. He can, however, conduct other tasks while the vehicle is operating in Highway Pilot mode.

(The ZF Innovation Truck 2014)

Both vehicles will be on display at the upcoming IAA Commercial Vehicle show in Hanover, Germany, in late September.

They also both show the possibilities when we think outside the box. Taking advantage of modern technology such as sensors and advanced safety systems, they also show that when putting together the future of transportation, it is the here and now that is important.

In ZF’s vehicle, many of the components that comprise the unit are technologies that either are, or will be available in the near future, such as the company’s ZF TraXon Hybrid transmission and steering technology from ZF Lenksysteme, both of which will be available in the next few years.

Technologies such as these just show that the future is closer than we all think. It is innovative ideas such as these that push the boundaries of engineering and ultimately lead to technologies that are useful today, regardless of what present-day thinkers believe.

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