The world’s first truck with automated driving system was finally put to the test under real world scenario recently in Germany. The truck was a standard Mercedes-Benz Actros equipped with the Highway Pilot system for this test of autonomous driving on public roads.
According to Daimler, the truck was approved as a test vehicle in accordance with §19/6 StVZO (German road traffic type approval law).
“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 Daimler Board Member Dr Bernhard.
Sven Ennerst, Head of Development Daimler Trucks, commented: „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 multi-sensor fusion, i.e. the combination of proven new-generation assistance and safety systems and sensors, enables the truck with the Highway Pilot system to continually observe the entire area in front of the vehicle and to take control itself in certain situations. This gives Dr Wolfgang Bernhard the opportunity to take his hands off the wheel without incurring any risks.
How the system works is that it offers to take over vehicle operation once the driver turns on the Highway Pilot system. Once he or she confirms at the press of a button, the Actros meticulously keeps to its lane and maintains the optimum distance to the vehicle in front of it. Should the distance become too small or if a vehicle cuts in front of it, the truck brakes.
If it approaches an obstacle such as roadworks, the system asks the driver to take over the vehicle. If the roadworks are behind the truck, the Highway Pilot can once again take over control of the vehicle.
Daimler said that the Mercedes-Benz Actros’ safety systems such as the Mercedes PowerShift 3 gearbox, Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC) system, Active Brake Assist 3, proximity control, drowsiness detection and a Fleetboard vehicle computer systems are linked with the sensors of the Highway Pilot technology, which uses a 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 is ideal for highway as it 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. 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 an extremely 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.
Around two thirds of all accidents in road traffic are rear-end collisions and accidents resulting from unintentionally leaving the lane. Often the causes are drowsiness, distraction and driving errors. This is where the Highway Pilot is superior to any human being. It is alert, concentrated and relaxed. Without exception, round the clock, seven days a week.