Published: March 22, 2016 | Düsseldorf
Daimler Trucks presented an impressive example of the possibilities opened up by the digital connection of trucks at the A52 autobahn near Düsseldorf. Three WiFi-connected, autonomously driving trucks operated on the autobahn with authorization for public traffic as a so-called platoon. Based on the Daimler Trucks Highway Pilot system for autonomously driving heavy trucks, the three trucks link up to form an aerodynamically optimized, fully automated platoon. Daimler Trucks calls this advanced system development Highway Pilot Connect.
The Highway Pilot was first presented in July 2014, in the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 study, followed by the very first public road authorization for an autonomously driving truck in May 2015, for the Freightliner Inspiration Truck, and of course the demo by Daimler’s board member with partially automated Actros.
Up to 400 sensors per vehicle, 365,000 trucks connected so far
Daimler’s smart trucks have the potential to radically change road goods transport in the coming years. Already today, Daimler Trucks generates valuable information to a previously unimaginable extent with its approximately 400 sensors per vehicle and is fully connected with software including 100 millions of lines of code – more than a passenger jet.
Daimler claims to have connected 365,000 trucks globally. At present there are around 180,000 vehicles with FleetBoard systems in operation with around 6000 customers. And FleetBoard not only connects Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Other vehicle brands can also be retrofitted with the FleetBoard hardware at any time, and easily integrated into the logistics management system.
Daimler Trucks is driving its activities in the field of connected services forward in the US via its strategic partnership with Zonar. Detroit Connect is the first telematics solution in the USA and in Canada which is even able to determine the cause behind fault messages during the journey. Customers and drivers of more than 185,000 vehicles have already clocked up billions of kilometres with Detroit Connect.
Autonomous truck platooning lowers fuel consumption and CO2
Connected vehicles in a platoon require a distance of only 15 instead of 50 metres between them. In contrast to this, three trucks which are not electronically docked require a total of 150 metres of road space.This considerably smaller distance produces a significant reduction in aerodynamic drag. In this way a platoon of three trucks can achieve a fuel saving of around seven percent, reducing CO2 emissions in the same measure. This makes fuel consumption figures of around 25 l/100 km possible for a loaded semitrailer combination with a gross weight of 40 t.
Docking three or more vehicles together becomes particularly interesting in countries with a corresponding infrastructure. In the USA or Australia, for example, trucks cover long distances without bridges and exit roads on highways crossing the entire continent.
Harmonized cross-border regulation is a prerequisite for efficient road transport of the future
With its three Mercedes-Benz Actros Highway Pilot Connect trucks Daimler trucks participates in the European Truck Platoon Challenge 2016 (EU TPC) – an initiative of the Netherlands during their ongoing EU presidency. Within the European Truck Platoon Challenge six European truck manufacturers will bring platoons of semi-automated trucks to public roads, crossing borders from various European cities in order to reach their final destination of the Port of Rotterdam on April 6th. The overall objective of all OEMs and the Dutch government is to jointly accelerate the introduction of a harmonized, cross-border regulation to optimize efficient road transport in the EU.
To this end the company is investing around half a billion euros in the connection of its trucks, and in the creation of associated new services and digital solutions, in the next five years alone.