On Saturday, Daimler Trucks was allowed to first test its Highway Pilot system on public roads. The test was performed on Germany’s Autobahn 8 with help from a retrofitted heavy-duty truck Mercedes-Benz Actros.
Mercedes-Benz Actros is the world’s first mass produced truck to semi-automatically drive on public roads. The feat was made possible with help from Daimler’s Highway Pilot system, which reportedly is safer than any human driver.
The Rhineland German Technical Inspection Authority first tested the vehicle and approved it to be run on public roads as a test vehicle. A regional council also granted the semi-automated truck an exemption from current highway safety laws.
Daimler boasted that the test was a first major step toward a future of self-driving trucks and a safer transport of cargo on public roads. The company also thanked federal and local regulators for allowing the test to happen.
The truck is equipped with a multi-sensor function, or a mix of sensors and safety systems. Sensors help the truck constantly monitor the road ahead and traffic conditions and take the best decisions in various circumstances.
Nevertheless, the truck is not fully automated, but it does allow the driver to take hands off the wheel with no risk. Sometimes the truck’s Highway Pilot takes control itself in certain situations.
The truck was driven by a driver from the service station onto the highway. Highway Pilot was automatically enabled as soon as the vehicle reached A8, but the driver had to confirm the operation by pressing a button.
The vehicle didn’t go astray from its lane and maintained a safe distance from the cars ahead. If the distance suddenly becomes unsafe or a vehicle cuts in front of the truck, its breaking system comes into play. The driver can relax throughout the journey and even chat with the cabin’s occupants.
When it reaches trade fair exit the auto-pilot turns off and asks the human driver to take over from there. The same thing happens whenever the system senses roadworks ahead. As soon as roadworks are in the rear mirror, the auto-pilot turns itself on once more. On exits, the driver is asked to take over and safely take the vehicle off the highway.
The Mercedes-Benz Actros has an active braking system, automated powertrain control system, driver assistance system, proximity sensor system and even a drowsiness detector. All the systems are linked to one another via the Highway Pilot which coordinates them and gathers road information through sensors and a radar system. The truck doesn’t need an Internet connection for its automated driving operations.
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