Following the European Truck Platooning Challenge, German automotive and truck manufacturer Daimler announced that three digitally connected and self driving Mercedes-Benz trucks had begun a successful convoy journey from the German city of Stuttgart to Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
The 600km+ demonstration provides an indication of how advanced Mercedes’ current self-driving technology is at the moment.
The company had begun demonstrating a partial self-driving system – dubbed Highway Pilot – in 2014, with the unit requiring some driver interaction, notably in the circumstances of incumbent weather and tight manoeuvres. In addition the system automated the truck’s acceleration and much of its cruising speed, therefore reducing fuel consumption.
The trucks on demonstration are based on the company’s successful Actros model, and are all equipped with Highway Pilot Connect technology. The lead vehicle is fitted with an array of sensors, camera’s, lasers, and radars, ensuring that the road ahead is monitored to the highest standards, allowing for the truck to drive itself.
Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology connects the trucks via a stable Wi-Fi connection, allowing them to follow without having to scan the road.
Mercedes notes at autonomous platooning is safer by greatly reducing the risk of rear-end collisions. This due to the fact that the lead truck is able to send a signal to the following trucks in as little as 0.1-seconds, while human error allows 1.4-seconds on average to react to an obstacle. The company also say that although they are confident in its technology, the driver of the autonomous truck still needs to remain alert in order to adapt should an emergency arise.
Mercedes-Benz was not the only manufacturer showcasing its technology on the day, the likes of Volkswagen’s MAN and Scania offerings were also participating in the Rotterdam test.
What makes Mercedes-Benz significant however is the fact that the lead truck in its platoon is largely driven by itself.
Daimler’s Highway Pilot Connect program is noted as still needing thousands of kilometres of testing and refinement prior to its official global unveiling.