Mir­ror­cam sees blind spots

Lat­est Merc makes emer­gency stops and of­fers wrap-around views of a truck’s front and rear

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - ALWYN VILJOEN

HANOVER — Europe’s big­gest an­nual truck show has in its pre­vi­ous 66 years shown many safety fea­tures that ap­peared first in trucks be­fore be­com­ing stan­dard safety sys­tems in cars.

The best known ex­am­ples are elec­tric mir­rors and lane keep­ing as­sist, both sys­tems pi­o­neered by Mercedes-Benz trucks. The world’s first car builder did it again this year — launch­ing the best thing since the elec­tric mir­ror — no mir­ror.

In­stead of sev­eral large slabs of curved re­flec­tive glass that need to be heated to stay clear, Merc now of­fers Mir­ror­cam, an el­e­gant lit­tle cam­era hous­ing that aims lenses at the many dan­ger­ous blind spots around a truck.

And this is not merely a clever gizmo de­signed to daz­zle un­der the spot­lights in the main hall at the 67th IAA com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle show, but are al­ready on sale on the new Ac­tros.

In ad­di­tion to in­creased safety, re­mov­ing the large mir­rors also re­duces drag and diesel con­sump­tion, as the com­pact dig­i­tal cam­eras bring con­sid­er­able aero­dy­namic ad­van­tages.

This safety fea­ture will be wel­comed by all truck­ers who oth­er­wise have to won­der ex­actly where that biker and two small cars are in their blind spots, but Mir­ror­cam is only the cherry on top of a raft of ac­tive safety sys­tems in the new Ac­tros.

Mercedes-Benz con­sider the most im­por­tant new fea­ture on the Ac­tros the lat­est ver­sion of Ac­tive Drive As­sist.

Un­like sys­tems that only work within a cer­tain speed range, Ac­tive Drive As­sist pro­vides semi­au­to­mated driv­ing at all speeds — the first such sys­tem in a se­ries pro­duc­tion truck.

The sys­tem fea­tures ac­tive lon­gi­tu­di­nal and lat­eral con­trol at all speed ranges by com­bin­ing radar and cam­era in­for­ma­tion, which en­ables a driver to stay per­fectly within the lane on high­ways.

At the test track around its truck fac­tory in Wörth, Merc had one of their ex­ec­u­tives walk in front of a speed­ing truck to dis­play how fast and ef­fec­tively the Ac­tive Drive As­sist works.

Should the driver not brake in time, as hap­pened here to the gasps of me­dia, the truck will slam on the brakes in such a man­ner that the trailer stays neatly in its lane, and au­to­mat­i­cally speed up again once the ob­sta­cle is cleared.

Should the trailer or trac­tor cross a lane un­in­ten­tion­ally, Ac­tive Drive As­sist in­ter­venes and in­de­pen­dently steers the ve­hi­cle back into its lane.

The dis­tance from the ve­hi­cle in front and the ve­hi­cle’s po­si­tion in its lane can be ad­justed in mul­ti­ple stages us­ing the driv­ing as­sis­tance menu.

Us­ing 3-5% less fuel

Com­pared to its pre­de­ces­sor, the new Ac­tros con­sumes up to three per­cent less fuel on mo­tor­ways and ex­press­ways.

With mileage in long-dis­tance haulage typ­i­cally ex­ceed­ing 120 000 km per year, Mercedes said in a state­ment that three per­cent trans­lates into a sig­nif­i­cant cost re­duc­tion for the op­er­a­tor. When trav­el­ling on ru­ral routes, like most of South Africa of­fers, the sav­ings can be up to five per­cent, as this is where the ef­fect of the im­proved Pre­dic­tive Pow­er­train Con­trol sys­tem is even more sig­nif­i­cant.

The fuel sav­ings are helped by a new stan­dard ra­tio for the weight-op­ti­mised rear axle.

The gear ra­tio has been re­duced from 1:2.533 pre­vi­ously to 1:2.412.

Thanks to the weight-op­ti­mised G211 trans­mis­sion, the new gear ra­tio is now avail­able for all new Ac­tros mod­els equipped with the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion, six-cylin­der OM 471 in­line en­gine and 315/70 R 22,5 tyres, pay­ing off both on mo­tor­ways and when trav­el­ling on ru­ral routes alike.

The 67th Hanover Truck show dis­payed sev­eral road-ready driv­e­trains that do not burn diesel, with Merc show­ing three non-diesel driv­e­trains, with the bat­tery pack of the eAc­tros (above), the Ac­tros with liq­uid nat­u­ral gas (LNG) and the all-elec­tric eCan­ter. Iveco and Shell showed their bio-gas re­fu­elling sys­tem, Volvo dis­played its LNG tanks and Re­nault had on dis­play its lat­est all-elec­tric trucks.

PHO­TOS: MERCEDES-BENZ

A small but stylish cam­era hous­ing re­places the tra­di­tional large truck mir­rors on the new Mercedes-Benz Ac­tros, to to­tally elim­i­nate blind spots and pro­vide the driver with sev­eral views around the truck, as well as a con­sid­er­able re­duc­tion in aero­dy­namic drag.

The Mir­ro­cam re­moves blind spots around a truck.

PHOTO: ALWYN VILJOEN

Maretha Ger­ber, new head of Mercedes-Benz Trucks for South­ern Africa, urges all fleet man­agers to com­pare the ben­e­fits the new Ac­tros truck brings to a fleet.

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