From a vision to reality – the spectacular Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 study will be providing a visually exciting and technically feasible take on the long-distance truck of tomorrow at the 2014 International Commercial Vehicle show (IAA).
In ten years’ time, trucks could be driving autonomously on motorways. Transport efficiency will increase, traffic will be safer for all road users, and fuel consumption and CO2 emissions will be further reduced. To do this Mercedes-Benz connects existing assistance systems with enhanced sensors to the “Highway Pilot” system. Autonomous driving is already possible at realistic speeds and in realistic motorway traffic situations. The Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 provides a glimpse of the future shape of trucks.
Revolution on the motorways: goods transport to become more efficient, safer and more connected in the future
The technology of tomorrow is already reality at Daimler Trucks. The Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 constitutes a revolution in efficiency, safety and networking, a revolution for road traffic and its infrastructure, for professional driving and for the road transport sector. This is not a new truck, but rather the key element in the interconnected transport system of the future. It is being developed as part of the “Shaping Future Transportation” initiative by Daimler Trucks to conserve resources and reduce emissions of all kinds. Other aims are to ensure the highest possible level of traffic safety and to boost networking with intelligent data management considerably for tailor-made vehicle and service solutions.
The prototype demonstrated the exciting capabilities of the Future Truck 2025 back in the summer at speeds of up to 80 km/h in realistic traffic situations on a section of the A14 motorway in Magdeburg, Germany. Now the thrilling exterior and interior of that same vehicle are being revealed. The tractor unit combined with an aerodynamically optimized trailer celebrates its world premiere as a study at the International Commercial Vehicles show (IAA).
Exterior: flowing forms with a light show
In terms of design, the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 study combines function, efficiency and emotion in a fascinating way. It adheres to the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy of “Sensual Purity”. Soft, slightly curved surfaces that are near-natural represent both efficiency and emotion. Inside and outside, the exceptional visual appearance symbolises the great leap from classic truck to autonomous transport vehicle of the future. Innovative forms and the lighting engineering of tomorrow send the conventional truck cab into the future. The designers have leveraged the opportunity presented by future length specifications: extending the front section allows soft, aerodynamically flowing forms to be created. Visual effects from the paintwork in light silver emphasise the enticingly smooth contours. Compact cameras replace conventional exterior mirrors. Its windscreen resembles a visor. The study’s integral sun screen and aero roof have a distinctive form. Featuring signature Mercedes-Benz style, the design is composed around the star as the central element. Looking practically seamless and as if made of one piece, the cab exudes maximum calm. Its plain yet powerful appearance lends it an imposing monolithic air. While at a standstill with the engine switched off the front mask is closed. Classic elements such as the headlamps seem to be missing at first glance. The Future Truck 2025 comes to life when the engine starts. LEDs illuminate the surfaces and light up the paintwork. The front mask gleams and LED bulbs shine instead of conventional headlamps to the left and right in the bumper. Orange flashing lights indicate when the truck is changing direction. When the fully drivable study is being controlled manually and on the move, the lights are white. When the truck is driving autonomously, the colour of the lights changes from white to blue. They then pulsate strongly, thus symbolizing the truck’s powerful heartbeat and clearly indicating the vehicle’s current operating mode to other road users.
Interior: calming design for a new way of working
The sensual purity of the Future Truck 2025’s calming design is also reflected by the interior. Flowing lines from the exterior are taken up again inside the cab.
Mercedes-Benz already creates a visual separation between the areas for driving and living in the cabs of long-distance transport. In the future the cab will also include a more comfortable and functional working area for autonomous driving phases.
The interior of the Future Truck 2025 is compelling as the focus is on essential functions and the design is almost puristic. The workplace for driving is calm and uncluttered like a modern, paperless office. Utilitarian engineering is excitingly juxtaposed with natural materials and a feeling of cosiness and warmth. Wood flows from the floor to the instrument panel with generous use of the material underlying the inviting atmosphere and sense of well-being on board. The dark finish is strongly grained, open-pore and has a naturally aged effect – a welcome contrast to the high functionality of the working area. The instrument panel is calm and uncluttered, with displays separating instruments and the exterior mirrors. They float like islands over the piano lacquer finish in the cockpit. Instead of conspicuous air outlets there is indirect climate control with a touchpad replacing conventional switch strips. The support for the instrument panel is clad in leather. Perfect craftsmanship and build quality sit side by side with the functional character of the truck’s technical features.
Exciting lighting effects inside the cab also underline the distinctive character of the Future Truck 2025. When the truck is travelling autonomously, the driver may recline their seat and also turn it by 45 degrees into the space, allowing them to consciously adopt a relaxed, comfortable working position. At the same time, indirect lighting illuminates the interior without glare. To communicate from the future workplace the driver uses a tablet computer. This is accommodated in the newly designed centre console but is removable. Here the driver can process documents, schedule more destinations, accept further orders and arrange the next break. The computer screen can be configured to suit individual requirements, also enabling the driver to call up all key trip data. On long routes driven autonomously, the tablet computer becomes as crucial as the steering wheel and pedals are otherwise. The Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 ushers in a new way of working in the cab of a long-distance truck. As an overall concept it combines the high-tech driver’s area of the future with a state-of-the-art, paperless office and a living room. The driver in the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 feels at home even when on the move thanks to the digital picture frame on the cab’s rear panel: here personal photographs of family or a past holiday scroll through on the screen. Despite all its functionality and efficiency, this high-tech truck also shows emotion.
Radar sensors and a camera scan the surroundings
The technology behind this exciting façade is no less impressive. The Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 is not, for instance, part of a platoon. It does not need to be daisy-chained to other vehicles either. Radar sensors and camera technology enable the Future Truck to drive autonomously, independently of other vehicles or central control stations. Its technical features are thus crucial in giving the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 its outstanding capabilities as an autonomous vehicle. For Mercedes-Benz the culmination of this is the highly intelligent “Highway Pilot” system, which resembles the autopilot on an aircraft. Networking with other trucks or passenger cars extends its abilities further, but is not necessary for autonomous driving.
A radar sensor in the lower area of the front end scans the road ahead at long and short range. The front radar sensor has a range of 250 m and scans an 18-degree segment. The short-range sensor has a range of 70 m and scans a 130-degree segment. The radar sensor is the basis for the proximity control and emergency braking safety systems already available today. A stereo camera installed above the instrument support behind the windscreen keeps the area ahead of the vehicle in view. This is currently the location of a mono-camera if optional Lane Keeping Assist is ordered. The range of the stereo camera is 100 m, and it scans an area of 45 degrees horizontally and 27 degrees vertically. The stereo camera of the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 identifies single- or two-lane roads, pedestrians, moving and stationary objects, all objects within the monitored area and also the road surface. The camera recognises everything that contrasts with the background, and is therefore also able to measure clearances precisely. The front stereo camera also registers the information on traffic signs. In addition to object and distance recognition, the stereo camera recognizes lane markings as a major function for autonomous lane guidance. The road surface to the left and right of the truck is monitored by radar sensors installed in the sides. They are located on the left and right, ahead of the tractor unit’s rear axle. The sensors have a range of 60 m and cover an angle of 170 degrees in the longitudinal direction.
Blind Spot Assist: more safety when turning and changing lane
These sensors form the heart of the new Blind Spot Assist system from Mercedes-Benz. The radar sensor modules are arranged in such a way that they cover the area parallel to the truck over the entire length of a tractor/trailer combination or drawbar combination. In addition this strip is extended forwards to two metres in front of the truck.
Blind Spot Assist warns the truck driver about other road users not only when turning; it also warns about imminent collisions with stationary obstacles – for example signs or lamps – and serves as an assistance system when changing lane. For Mercedes-Benz, the planned introduction of Blind Spot Assist over the next few years is a major step paving the way for the Future Truck 2025 and underlines Mercedes-Benz’s role in pioneering maximum road safety.
The transport system of tomorrow will be networked and autonomous
All sensors on board the Future Truck 2025 are networked (multi-sensor fusion), and provide a complete image of the surroundings. All moving and stationary objects in the truck’s vicinity are registered.
Fusion of the data by a high-performance multi-core processor in the central computer links the data from all sensors in the whole area in front of and beside the truck.
The sensor and camera technology is active from standstill to the legally permitted maximum speed for trucks. By intervening in the steering, it automatically keeps the truck safely in the centre of its lane. The system also includes a three-dimensional digital map, which is already used for the assistance system Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC). This means that the truck is always fully aware of the road’s course and topography.
Source: Daimler AG / Pictures: MBpassion.de