Daimler showcases autonomous three-truck convoy

Daimler Trucks has been pursuing connectivity as an integral element of its technology strategy since 2013, connecting more than 365 000 vehicles worldwide over this period.
In future, it will no longer be sufficient to optimise individual flows belonging to the value chain. These flows require a network in order to best exploit available synergies.
Through vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) communication, connectivity can prevent gridlocks, markedly reduce fuel consumption and emissions and further lower the number of traffic accidents. Society benefits from enhanced safety and a reduced strain on resources and the environment. Companies draw benefits from optimised logistic processes, saving time and cutting costs. Strain on truck drivers is relieved considerably. Daimler Trucks is systematically developing and expanding services and technologies for the intelligent, fully connected truck.
While connectivity has only recently become a buzzword for the logistics sector, Daimler Trucks has been offering networking and telematics services for many years.
– Connectivity within the engine, between engine and the transmission, between the drivetrain and the route ahead has long been the basis for ever lower fuel consumption and emissions.
– Connectivity provides the foundation for ever more effective fleet management – through FleetBoard, for example.
– Connectivity is the essential basis for the continually self-optimising truck which travels intelligently and autonomously along the motorway to its destination – more safely and economically than ever before.
Autonomous driving is essentially possible without full-scale connectivity in the form of V2V communications, as demonstrated by the Highway Pilot, Daimler’s system for autonomously driving trucks. The Highway Pilot is kept closely in touch with its surroundings by radar and camera systems, however. No autonomously operating truck is permitted to move an inch without this secure connection to the world outside of the vehicle.
The autonomous truck in the guise of the Mercedes-Benz Actros with Highway Pilot or its North American counterpart, the Freightliner Inspiration Truck, scans its immediate and more distant surroundings with extreme precision by means of camera and radar systems, applies multisensor fusion to analyse the data and adapts its position on the road and its speed accordingly, independently of other vehicles. To this end, the Highway Pilot combines the functions of the familiar adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning systems and additionally incorporates steering intervention.
For the first time, it controls the truck’s lateral guidance, as well as performing longitudinal guidance. Only with this lateral guidance function can the truck be kept safely in the middle of its lane automatically.
The Highway Pilot functionality is initially limited to motorways. This natural territory of the long-haul truck lends itself to autonomous driving. At a later stage, autonomous driving is also conceivable away from these truck routes, on roads with oncoming and crossing traffic.
Connectivity enables vehicles to inform one another of their destinations and directions of travel, their speed, their position on the road to centimetre accuracy and the slightest changes in speed and direction. This makes their behaviour calculable, enabling the safe coordination of distances between vehicles and even high speeds.
Highway Pilot Connect represents an initial further development of the autonomously driving Actros with Highway Pilot by means of connectivity. Their interconnection enables two or more trucks to form a platoon observing the tightest safety distance of 15 m while maintaining the same speed. The close distance between the vehicles reduces drag, resulting in a substantial lowering of fuel consumption and emissions – on average by up to 7% for all vehicles in the platoon.
It is possible to link several semitrailer/tractor combinations to form a platoon – not as a rigid formation as was the case almost 20 years ago, but with an extreme degree of flexibility. Cars can pull out of and back into the lane in which the platoon is moving at any time, for example.
Today, the trailing vehicles no longer ‘blindly’ follow the leading truck. As every member of the platoon, including the leading vehicle, is equipped with the Highway Pilot, the platoon essentially consists of autonomously driving trucks which team up temporarily for practical purposes – road-bound goods transport in its most efficient form. A vehicle can pull out of the platoon at any time, and appropriately equipped trucks can join the platoon at any time.
Connectivity ensures that all the vehicles respond immediately to unforeseen events: if one truck has to brake, for example, all the vehicles behind it will also brake automatically. The reaction time is only one tenth of a second – a fraction of the time that elapses before a driver responds to an event.
The available technology enables all members of the platoon to be kept informed about the driving situation of the entire platoon at all times. A camera on the leading vehicle records the driving situation ahead of the vehicle and relays the image to monitors on board the following vehicles. Members of the platoon are equally able to see their own positions within the platoon on their monitors at all times.
Daimler Trucks is already technically capable of demonstrating the diverse functions of platooning on the road and in flowing traffic today with Highway Pilot Connect.
For the first time, interaction takes place between autonomously driving trucks, with each vehicle reacting precisely to the vehicle ahead. An intelligent interaction also takes place with other road users.
In 2014 the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 was the first autonomously driving truck on the road. The Freightliner InspirationTruck and the Mercedes-Benz Actros with Highway Pilot followed just one year later – both approved for road use. They are supported by telematics service provider FleetBoard, which provides the interface between the truck and the outside world for haulage companies, consigners and consignees alike.
Connectivity has long become reality. Its further development and the new possibilities which it opens up every day give rise to interesting prospects for the future.