Automotive

Self-driving truck hits the highway in world first

Self-driving truck hits the hi...
Onboard the modified Mercedes-Benz Actros was Daimler executive Dr Wolfgang Bernhard and Winfried Kretschmann, Minister-President of the state of Baden-Württemberg
Onboard the modified Mercedes-Benz Actros was Daimler executive Dr Wolfgang Bernhard and Winfried Kretschmann, Minister-President of the state of Baden-Württemberg
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Daimler Trucks' progress in autonomous driving has just shifted gears, with the company fitting its Highway Pilot self-driving system to a production Mercedez-Benz Actros to steer the truck down a stretch highway
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Daimler Trucks' progress in autonomous driving has just shifted gears, with the company fitting its Highway Pilot self-driving system to a production Mercedez-Benz Actros to steer the truck down a stretch highway
The radars work in conjunction with Active Cruise Control and Active Brake Assist, along with a stereo camera that identifies road markings and guides steering
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The radars work in conjunction with Active Cruise Control and Active Brake Assist, along with a stereo camera that identifies road markings and guides steering
Daimler's Highway Pilot system first debuted on the open road last year onboard the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025
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Daimler's Highway Pilot system first debuted on the open road last year onboard the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025
Daimler likens the Highway Patrol system to the autopilot used in aviation, in that the driver must be prepared to take control at any time
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Daimler likens the Highway Patrol system to the autopilot used in aviation, in that the driver must be prepared to take control at any time
The radars work in conjunction with Active Cruise Control and Active Brake Assist, along with a stereo camera that identifies road markings and guides steering
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The radars work in conjunction with Active Cruise Control and Active Brake Assist, along with a stereo camera that identifies road markings and guides steering
Daimler likens the system to the autopilot used in aviation
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Daimler likens the system to the autopilot used in aviation
The Highway Pilot system uses a short-range radar that assess the vehicle's surroundings up to 230 ft (70 m) away in a forward-facing 130-degree arc, while a long-range unit scans out to 820 ft (250 m) in an 18-degree arc
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The Highway Pilot system uses a short-range radar that assess the vehicle's surroundings up to 230 ft (70 m) away in a forward-facing 130-degree arc, while a long-range unit scans out to 820 ft (250 m) in an 18-degree arc
Daimler likens the system to the autopilot used in aviation
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Daimler likens the system to the autopilot used in aviation
The radars work in conjunction with Active Cruise Control and Active Brake Assist, along with a stereo camera that identifies road markings and guides steering
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The radars work in conjunction with Active Cruise Control and Active Brake Assist, along with a stereo camera that identifies road markings and guides steering
Daimler likens the system to the autopilot used in aviation
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Daimler likens the system to the autopilot used in aviation
While self-driving is the go-to terminology here, Highway Pilot isn't about to let those behind the wheel plonk their feet on the dashboard and snooze their way to their destination
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While self-driving is the go-to terminology here, Highway Pilot isn't about to let those behind the wheel plonk their feet on the dashboard and snooze their way to their destination
Onboard the modified Mercedes-Benz Actros was Daimler executive Dr Wolfgang Bernhard and Winfried Kretschmann, Minister-President of the state of Baden-Württemberg
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Onboard the modified Mercedes-Benz Actros was Daimler executive Dr Wolfgang Bernhard and Winfried Kretschmann, Minister-President of the state of Baden-Württemberg

Daimler Trucks has shifted gears in its ongoing effort to develop autonomous vehicles. By fitting its Highway Pilot self-driving system to a Mercedes-Benz Actros truck and steering it down a stretch of Autobahn 8 near Stuttgart, the company has marked the first time an autonomous production semi has been tested out on public roads.

Much like the posited advantages of self-driving cars, Daimler says improvements in driver safety are a compelling reason to pursue the technology in the road freight sector. By allowing autonomous systems to shoulder some of the burden on long-haul journeys, it says it can reduce driver fatigue and limit mistakes and distractions. Furthermore, when it comes to changing gears, accelerating and braking, the system is said to be more efficient, meaning less fuel and carbon emissions as a result.

Daimler's Highway Pilot system first debuted on the open road last year aboard the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 – a concept vehicle intended to demonstrate what a future of autonomous trucking might look like. Then earlier this year another of the company's concept vehicles, the Freightliner Inspiration, received official licensing to roam the public highways in the state of Nevada.

The latest autonomous expedition saw the Highway Pilot system installed and tested in something other than a concept vehicle for the first time. Onboard the modified Mercedes-Benz Actros was Daimler executive Dr Wolfgang Bernhard and Winfried Kretschmann, Minister-President of the state of Baden-Württemberg, who travelled along the Autobahn 8 between Denkendorf and Stuttgart with the Highway Pilot system helping guide the way.

The system uses a short-range radar that assess the vehicle's surroundings up to 230 ft (70 m) away in a forward-facing 130-degree arc, while a long-range unit scans out to 820 ft (250 m) in an 18-degree arc. These work in conjunction with Active Cruise Control and Active Brake Assist, along with a stereo camera that identifies road markings and guides steering.

While self-driving is the name of the game, Highway Pilot isn't about letting those behind the wheel plonk their feet on the dashboard and snooze their way to their destination. Daimler likens the system to the autopilot used in aviation, in that the driver must be prepared to take control at any time. The system can prompt the driver to do so if there is a change in weather or road conditions, and if they don't respond in time the truck is brought to a stop.

To conduct this demonstration, Daimler had to obtain a special permit from Germany's road traffic regulator, allowing the truck to be driven semi-autonomously on highways at speeds of up to 80 km/h (50 mph).

While widespread adoption of autonomous trucks still appears some way off, the opportunity to test out the technology in real-world scenarios will help speed up the process.

"Safe testing in real traffic is absolutely decisive for the development of this technology to market maturity," says Bernhard. "We are now able to proceed with this."

Source: Daimler

5 comments
Rigby5
This makes a lot more sense than autonomous car attempts because trucks at least cost enough to cover the expense, but it still is a terrible idea. None of these computer systems will work in rain, snow, construction sites, with blowing debris, children running out between cars, etc. Computer software will never be safe because machines can't recognize object quickly enough. Humans do it so fast inherently, that we see Jesus in a piece of burnt toast. Computers will never be able to do that, so will always be very unsafe at the wheel.
Phyzzi
Except, Rigby, they already do. Further, a self driving truck could be huge for extending a professional driver's range and time on the road, with the driver taking over in complicated conditions, and the truck driving itself the rest of the time and letting the human get rest, or eat, or take a mental break.
Daniel Gregory
Welcome to the robot/slave economy. Where automation takes away jobs. Because who wants to pay a person thousands a year when they can buy a robot once and use it forever.
SamPellegrino
For the US Market, could these be programmed to adhere to: "Slower Traffic Keep Right," PLEEEEZE !??!
VincentWolf
Autonomous trucks make a lot of sense because they wouldn't have to park and sleep every 10 hours and more responsible driving would entail but it sure would put out of work a lot of people--right now there is a shortage of semi drivers but there hundreds of thousands of them that could lose their jobs in the long run. But this won't happen for decades yet as the hardware and software just isn't there yet--we really need artificial intelligence (A.I.) to make it work because they can't make moral decisions. What's better to slam the brakes and jack knife the trailer an possibly kill others or just turn off the road and kill the truck to avoid a collision? Until a computer has a moral compass it's just not going to fly with the public.