In an unprecedented test, Daimler AG is demonstrating another potential solution for the future use of automated commercial vehicles. Following the successful demonstration of the innovative Highway Pilot and Highway Pilot Connect systems, the latter making truck platooning possible, the company today presents another development step forward on the road to the fully connected and autonomous commercial vehicle.

On the site of the former Pferdsfeld airbase, the world’s leading manufacturer of commercial vehicles demonstrates the practical application of automated snow removal operations at airports based on a specific customer requirement.

Martin Daum, the Daimler AG Board of Management member responsible for Daimler Trucks, emphasises: „We are not just talking about new technologies, we are bringing them onto the road. Step by step we are developing our very latest assistance systems even further – with a view to automated driving. We are currently working on the implementation of two specific use cases: Firstly automated driving in quite normal traffic on motorways – with the clear aim of relieving driver workload and significantly improving safety. And secondly driverless operation in enclosed areas to significantly improve productivity. With today’s demonstration of automated snow clearance on an airfield, we are once more reinforcing our claim to technological leadership.“

Under the project name „Automated Airfield Ground Maintenance“ (AAGM), four Mercedes-Benz Arocs tractor units demonstrate automated airfield clearing in a remote-controlled convoy. The benefits are obvious: Airfield clearances are hard to predict and thus difficult to plan, especially in winter. This makes snow removal units operated with pinpoint precision by a single vehicle operator to remove snow from runways especially crucial when extreme weather strikes without warning during the winter months, and they require no additional vehicle and staff scheduling.

The project was established in close cooperation between Lab1886, the Daimler innovation incubator, Daimler Trucks and Fraport AG. Lab1886 actively supports the transformation of Daimler AG from an automotive manufacturer to a mobility provider, and works closely with the Daimler CASE initiative. CASE – these letters shape the future of mobility and are an integral part of the corporate strategy of Daimler. They stand for the fields of connectivity (Connected), autonomous driving (Autonomous), flexible use (Shared & Services) and electric powertrains (Electric).

„The mission of Lab1886 is to develop new innovative business models for Daimler. The Fraport project is a great example in this regard. It shows how we bring together innovations with specific customer needs to develop new markets“, says Susanne Hahn, Head of Lab1886.

„As one of the first airports worldwide, we are pleased to be contributing our know-how to this innovative project. It enables us to examine autonomous control of heavy winter service equipment in the especially challenging winter conditions of an airport. We hope to obtain findings that will help us to plan the future deployment of equipment even more precisely and efficiently under sudden wintry conditions. Our commitment once again underlines the role of Fraport AG as an innovation driver in a wide range of areas,“ says Mathias Dudek, head of Infrastructural Facility Management at Fraport AG.

Based in Frankfurt/Main, Fraport AG operates one of the world’s largest air traffic hubs. The objective of the joint testing activities is the implementation of state-of-the-art telematics-based vehicle control technology in areas not accessible to the public. This is one of the key aspects in which the new application differs from the technology milestones in the area of autonomous driving developed and realized for practical testing by Daimler to date. The Highway Pilot and the Highway Pilot Connect system presented for platooning are designed for use on public roads.

In addition to a comprehensive set of requirements on automated operating machines, Fraport also supplies the snow removal equipment for this unparalleled test. Among the equipment are four so-called sweeper blowers of the kind already in operation today as semitrailers towed by still conventional Mercedes-Benz tractor units.

Premiere for the „Remote Truck Interface“ (RTI)
The four Arocs test vehicles are equipped with the new Remote Truck Interface (RTI) for remotely controlling vehicle functions and exchanging data. The RTI is the centrepiece of the new technology, for which Daimler can draw on a significant pool of knowledge and engineering from projects such as the advanced Highway Pilot and Highway Pilot Connect systems.

All vehicles are fully interlinked via the RTI by means of telematic systems, all operate automated and all are able to lead or follow in the vehicle convoy. Specifically, this means that a convoy leader chooses a random unit from a fleet of available semitrailer combinations and defines this as the „lead truck“. He then uses a control panel to define the number and sequence of the other convoy vehicles, and conducts a pre-operation inspection of his and all other semitrailer combinations.

What sounds simple is actually just as simple in practice. However, the complexity of the software behind it is enormous. All vehicles are equipped with dual GPS tracking (DGPS) and of course state-of-the-art vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V communication) technology.

In addition, the interplay of the innovative RTI and the remote control unit provides extremely fast and not least secure date exchange among vehicles. To make this work in real time, a full data exchange between the vehicles and the main control unit of the RTI takes place every 0.1 seconds. The transmissions in the area of V2V communication are based on the „Digital Short Range Communication DSRC“ technology.

All-wheel drive Arocs 2045 AS 4×4 as the basis for the snow-clearing semitrailer combination
The prototype convoy from Advance Engineering presented now comprises four individual vehicles initially. The basis is provided by all-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz Arocs 2045 AS production tractor units from the robust Grounder product range, equipped with the latest OM 470 LA engine generation certified to Euro VI standards with an output of 315 kW (428 hp) and producing 2100 Nm of torque. At a brisk speed, most of the mass of snow is thrown to the side by a fully hydraulic, three-section snow plough measuring eight metres in width.

The finishing surface clearing touches are carried out by a sweeper, a so-called sweeper blower. It is towed as a semitrailer and powered independently of the tractor unit by a six-cylinder engine from Mercedes-Benz installed at the rear of the semitrailer.

The entire tractor/semi-trailer combination is 23 metres long and weighs 25 tonnes in operational condition. The tractor unit, which was reinforced in the area of the snow plough mounts, accounts for about ten tonnes, the plough blade adds two tonnes to the total weight, the semi-trailer with the sweeper blower has a gross weight of 13 tonnes.

Source: Daimler AG