Published: October 05, 2015 | Stuttgart, Germany
Mercedes-Benz Actros with Highway Pilot is the first series-production truck to drive on a partially automated basis on the motorway. The vehicle is approved according to automation level 2 (partially automated driving). The Highway Pilot does not replace the driver, but supports and relieves the strain on them by dealing with monotonous stretches for them and taking care of annoying stop-and-go driving in a traffic jam.
The Mercedes-Benz Actros is fitted with the 12.8 l engine, OM 471 and all the proven assistance and safety systems, such as Mercedes PowerShift 3, Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC), Active Brake Assist 3, proximity control, drowsiness detection and a Fleetboard vehicle computer. These systems are linked with the sensors of the Highway Pilot – radar and stereo camera. So all the technology of the Actros with Highway Pilot is in the vehicle, and the truck does not need the internet for its automated driving function.
The truck is approved as a test vehicle in accordance with §19/6 StVZO (German road traffic type approval law). The Rhineland German Technical Inspection Authority had inspected the vehicle and issued an expert opinion. Together with the state of Baden-Württemberg’s Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann, Dr Wolfgang Bernhard, Board Member of Daimler AG responsible for Trucks and Buses, is undertaking the maiden journey in the Mercedes-Benz Actros with Highway Pilot system.
The multi-sensor fusion, i.e. the combination of proven new-generation assistance and safety systems and sensors, enables the truck with the Highway Pilot system to continually observe the entire area in front of the vehicle and to take control itself in certain situations. Dr Wolfgang Bernhard drives the Mercedes-Benz Actros from the service station onto the motorway towards Karlsruhe. As soon as the truck has entered the flowing traffic in the right-hand lane, it’s “Highway Pilot On” and the system now offers to take over vehicle operation.
The Actros meticulously keeps to its lane and maintains the optimum distance to the vehicle in front of it. Should the distance become too small or if a vehicle cuts in front of it, the truck brakes. Both vehicle occupants are sitting comfortably in the functional and modern cab and are chatting in a relaxed fashion.
At the airport/trade fair exit the system again asks Wolfgang Bernhard to take control and the truck reverts from automated driving mode to manual control – “Highway Pilot Off”. He steers the Actros off the motorway and then drives directly back onto the A8 again, this time in the opposite direction. The scenario is exactly the same: the Actros steers and brakes independently in the flowing motorway traffic.
Daimler estimates that a long-distance transport truck drives an average of 130,000 km per annum. The autonomously driving truck supports the driver by taking care of monotonous stretches of road and tiring stop-and-go traffic in a tailback for them. Tests carried out by Daimler Research on the driver’s condition during automated driving have proven that the driver takes longer to become tired as a result of this relief. Their attention rate is around 25 percent higher than when driving in the conventional Actros if they have the opportunity to attend to other tasks.
In July 2014 Mercedes-Benz had its Future Truck 2025 driven on a test track near Magdeburg. On the test track in Magdeburg the Future Truck 2015 already demonstrated automation stage 3 (highly automated driving): this means that the system independently detects the system limits and accordingly asks the driver to take over the task of driving. And at this automation level the driver no longer has to monitor the system on a permanent basis and could also carry on with other activities during the journey.