MAGDEBURG, GERMANY. Relying on a network of front and side radar sensors, a forward-looking camera, precise maps and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications, on July 3 Daimler Trucks demonstrated here a long-haul commercial truck that operated without driver intervention using a function it calls “Highway Pilot.”
Known as the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025, the vehicle autonomously maneuvered around obstacles, such as slow-moving traffic and a broken-down vehicle, on a stretch of autobahn near Magdeburg while the driver focused on other matters.
[To view more photos of Daimler's Future truck, please click here.]
The Future Truck 2025- a reference to the year by which Daimler believes infrastructure, legal frameworks and societal acceptance will allow for routine autonomous driving-- is part of Daimler’s "Shaping Future Transportation" initiative to conserve resources, reduce emissions and ensure the highest level of traffic safety.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it,” said Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, member of Daimler AG’s board of management responsible for Daimler Trucks & Buses, in announcing Future Truck 2025.
Daimler sees Highway Pilot as not replacing the drivers, but rather transforming their role from “truckers” to "transport managers" operating in a mobile workplace and offering the opportunity to develop and employ new professional skills.
Click above to play Daimler-produced video: "Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025: World Premiere"
The demonstration outside Magdeburg was just a taste of Daimler’s vision for autonomous driving. Mercedes-Benz will unveil a complete study of the Future Truck 2025 at the International Commercial Vehicle Show (IAA) in Hanover, Germany, in September.
Although Highway Pilot is fully operational in Daimler’s controlled setting, bringing the technology to market will require numerous changes related to regulatory frameworks; accident and product liability; insurance requirements; vehicle and infrastructure connectivity; and data security and reliability.
And all of that is on top of a more intangible but quite real societal resistance to the idea of a vehicle operating without a driver actually steering.
Individual nations will need to act to authorize autonomous driving within their own borders, but the concept is headed toward clearing a major hurdle with the expected adoption of an amendment to the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic to allow a vehicle to drive itself as long as the vehicle operator can deactivate or override it at any time.
Under the 1968 convention, a driver must always be in direct control of the vehicle. The U.S. is not bound by the convention, but 72 other nations are.
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of Highway Pilot is reducing the stress on drivers and potentially freeing them up for other, more productive duties while the truck is moving down the road.
But Daimler sees the operational predictability and optimization as offering other significant benefits, including lower fuel consumption, improved logistics and greater safety.