Daimler conducts autonomous truck test on Autobahn 8
AT the Department of Intelligent Hydraulics and Automation at the Tampere University of Technology (TUT) in Finland, five professors, 35 research assistants and five laboratory technicians are creating self-driving agricultural machines.
Robot trucks that drive themselves are nothing new, but these trails of centre-linked wheel loaders, small skidsteered wheel loaders, a forest forwarder and an agricultural tractor with Continuously Variable Transmission are a world first.
Professor Kalevi Huhtala said on the TUT website developing “operator assistance systems” will help companies to execute basic tasks.
“The goal is to develop automated task execution to carry out sub-tasks instead of operators [doing it],” Huhtala said.
Self-drive trucks in Germany
In Germany, Daimler has tested its first self-driving Actros truck at highway speeds.
Dr Wolfgang Bernhard, the member of the Daimler AG Board of Management responsible for Daimler Trucks and Buses, and Winfried Kretschmann, minister-president of the state of Baden-Württemberg, piloted the world’s first series-production autonomous truck along Autobahn 8 between Denkendorf and Stuttgart.
The truck used for the premiere was a standard MercedesBenz Actros equipped with the intelligent Highway Pilot system for this test of autonomous driving on public roads.
Kretschmann said partially autonomous and autonomous driving show a new age of mobility is dawning.
“Autonomously driving and networked vehicles improve the flow of traffic and can play a decisive role in helping to avoid traffic jams and relieving the strain on drivers. They also boost traffic safety.”
He added the more autonomous driving tests will follow on the state’s motorways, rural and urban roads. It is also intended “to promote the development of the legal framework for autonomous driving”.
Bernhard said such safe testing in real world traffic is critical to grow self-driving technology to market maturity.
As with the self-driving Freigthliner truck which Daimler is testing in Nevada, the version of the Highway Pilot installed in the Actros only allows semi-autonomous driving.
The driver still has to steer the truck on and off the highway and past roadworks.
The system includes frontmounted radar and a stereo camera, as well as well-proven assistance systems such as Adaptive Cruise Control.
The Highway Pilot has already absolved around 20 000 kilometres on test routes in Germany and the U.S.
Benefits of robot lorries
Bernhard said autonomous driving has considerable advantages for the road freight sector.
“Firstly, it improves safety: the Highway Pilot system never suffers fatigue or becomes distracted — it is always 100% active. A study by Daimler Trucks has also shown that driver fatigue decreases by 25% if they are relieved of monotonous lane-keeping and can focus on other tasks.
“This will become possible in further development stages of autonomous driving.
“Secondly, autonomous trucks improve efficiency: thanks to optimum gearshifting, acceleration and braking, they consume less fuel — which in turn reduces CO2 emissions.
“Daimler Trucks expects savings of up to five percent from this. The international consultancy Frost & Sullivan even estimates a reduction of around seven percent.
“Thirdly, autonomously driving trucks are more attractive workplaces: the driver’s ability to leave a great deal of the route to the Highway Pilot greatly reduces stress in the cockpit.
“Future technology developments will also make it possible for drivers to turn their attention to interesting side activities — e.g. completing documentation on a tablet PC.”
Bernhard said all that now remains is for politicians and government bodies to create the necessary regulatory framework for autonomous driving.
— Wheels Reporter.
WINFRIED KRETSCHMANN, Ministerpresident of the state of BadenWürttemberg “A new age of mobility is dawning.”
These working wheels work autonomously in tests in Finland.
A driver using Daimler’s Highway Pilot can complete documentation while driving.