One of the more active players in the self-driving trucks game is Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz and other heavy truck brands globally. The company has made no secret of its plans to have automated trucking become the norm and took its first major step towards that goal with the new Actros.
Unveiled in Germany, the new Mercedes-Benz Actros builds on its long-running success in the heavy-duty truck industry. The Actros is very popular in European markets and this latest version of the truck adds several innovations including Daimler's latest Active Drive Assist, Active Brake Assist 5, and is the first series-produced truck with rearview cameras replacing side mirrors for aerodynamic improvement.
"Just four years after the presentation of the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 driving in automated mode, we are launching the new Actros with the world's first partially automated assistance system in a series-produced truck, thus further extending our leading role for automated driving," said Mercedes-Benz Trucks head Stefan Buchner.
Active Drive Assist
The new Active Drive Assist (ADA) system from Daimler allows for partially automated driving. The system can brake, accelerate, and steer independently and will work at all speed ranges. With the ADA system, the Actros truck can operate in stop-and-go traffic, make lane changes safely with minimal driver input, and maintain a set following distance behind another vehicle.
Daimler says that Active Drive Assist is meant to augment the driver's own expertise behind the wheel by taking some of the workload off. The driver is expected to continue to monitor traffic, but with ADA, the work of minute-by-minute maneuvering is reduced significantly so that the driver can concentrate on the longer-distance picture. Driving a big truck is about looking far ahead to anticipate and react well before the situation becomes a safety hazard. The ADA system, Daimler says, allows the driver to do that more easily.
Through radar and camera information, the Active Drive Assist system watches traffic ahead, to the sides, and behind the Actros truck. Lane-keeping assist keeps the truck within its lane while the adaptive cruise control maintains a set following distance. Much like the system found in recent Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles, ADA can also make lane changes at the press of the turn signal indicator, steering without the driver's input to move to the indicated lane when systems show the all-clear to do so.
Active Brake Assist 5
Augmenting Active Drive Assist is a new generation of the Active Brake Assist system Daimler has developed. Active Brake Assist 5 builds on the successive generations of the braking system that was introduced in 2006. For this new generation, Daimler has added some significant safety improvements.
Chief among those upgrades is a rear-end collision capability, a pedestrian detection system, and an improved combination of radar and camera integration. Active Brake Assist 5 can detect pedestrians in front of the Actros truck when traveling at low speeds and can sense a pending rear-end collision when backing up.
Sensing these potential collisions, the Actros will activate braking to slow or stop and prevent the accident, much like many passenger cars today can now detect collisions and activate warnings and braking to prevent them.
The sideview cameras above either door of the new Actros truck replace the large mirrors normally found on a big truck. The cameras reduce aerodynamic drag significantly and offer a clearer field of vision in all weather and lighting situations.
The mirror cameras are wide-angle and project to 15-inch displays mounted to the A-pillars inside the door, at about the location a driver would look to see a conventional side mirror. The mirrors can be split to offer multiple views, including a fisheye (wide-angle) and standard view as well as a rear view for backing a trailer. Augmenting these cameras are standard mirrors mounted in their usual locations for up-close views and blind spot elimination.
The Actros now features a more advanced human machine interface with an option for more connectivity and infotainment than has previously been found in a commercial truck. Two interactive screens work as a "digital workplace of the future" in the truck. Drive-relevant information for use on the road is displayed on both the infotainment screen on the dashboard and in the driver's information screen within the instrument cluster.
Part of this is visualization of what the assistance and safety systems are doing. The Active Drive Assist and Active Brake Assist 5 systems show relevant information on the driver's information screen as needed. When parked, these systems can be fine-tuned through the infotainment screen as well.
The Actros can also be connected to the cloud, and Fleetboard and Mercedes' own Uptime can offer predictive maintenance alerts, truck location information, trip and fuel consumption logging, and more.
Other items in the Actros' new infotainment includes entertainment options for radio listening as well as hands-free smartphone operation.
Fuel savings and more
Mercedes-Benz says that the new Actros truck lowers fuel consumption by up to five percent when all of these technologies are in use. The savings depend on operation, but up to three percent fuel consumption improvement on highways and up to five percent on country roads are possible thanks to aerodynamic improvements and powertrain upgrades.
The automatic transmission in this latest Actros includes Predictive Powertrain Control for cruise-control optimization and gear selection that uses map topography to anticipate needs to improve performance.
The Actros is being produced in Mercedes-Benz Trucks' truck assembly plants in Worth on the Rhine River, and becomes available later in 2018.
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