The role of truck drivers may change in fairly dramatic fashion over the next few years if Daimler’s self-driving technology gamble pays off. The German auto conglomerate, which owns Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner, and Western Star, recently began testing trucks that are programmed to do the trucking themselves with virtually no assistance of a human counterpart on the highway.
Earlier this week, three prototype Mercedes-Benz Actros trucks set off from Stuttgart, Germany to their destination in Rotterdam, the Netherlands with systems on each that not only drive the trucks, but send relevant information between the three vehicles on a constant basis.
The technology has been dubbed Highway Pilot Connect, and while it’s still in the development phase, Mercedes-Benz expects testing to roll out into other parts of Europe, as well as the United States, later this year. Of course, while these systems are being debugged a human driver is still on hand to take over if things go awry, and more advanced maneuvers like entering and exiting the highway, as well as passing, are left to human expertise for the moment.
However, the long term plan is have these tasks dispatched by the systems as well, turning these trucks into fully autonomous vehicles.
Highway Pilot Connect uses both radar and stereo cameras systems to monitor the road up to 820 feet ahead, which allows it to maintain a safe distance from other drivers while also keeping the truck within the posted speed limits. Vehicle-to-vehicle technology also allows the system to predict the movements of the other vehicles around it, providing an extra layer of safety and efficiency. Additionally, this level of communication allows the trio of trucks to drive in a tight formation, allowing them to take up less space on the road and also significantly reduce aerodynamic drag, thereby improving fuel economy.
You can read more about MB’s new system here.