Today Daimler Trucks became the world´s first manufacturer to be granted a road license for an autonomous heavy-duty truck. The first journey in the so-called Freightliner Inspiration Truck, which took place on U.S. highway 15 in Las Vegas, was made by Brian Sandoval, Governor of Nevada, and Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard.
The truck is equipped with the intelligent Highway Pilot system for autonomous driving. The state of Nevada licensed two Freightliner Inspiration Trucks for regular operation on public roads. Daimler Trucks is the global leading truck manufacturer and, with the Freightliner brand, also the biggest producer in the U.S.
“Our Freightliner Inspiration Truck is the world´s first autonomous commercial vehicle to be licensed for road use. Our achievement here underlines yet again our role as a technological pioneer and demonstrates our consistent dedication to develop the technology for autonomous long-distance driving to series production standard. I am proud of this extra-ordinary achievement by the Daimler Trucks team,” stated Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, Daimler AG board member responsible for Trucks and Buses.
Highway Pilot system to be developed to series production standard
Transport in the future must be even safer, more efficient and more networked – this is the aspiration that Daimler Trucks has expressed in the new Freightliner Inspiration Truck. In July of last year, Daimler Trucks provided the world´s first demonstration of an autonomous truck in action when the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 drove along a cordoned-off section of the A14 autobahn near Magdeburg. Now, the first appearance of the Inspiration Truck on a public road in the U.S. marks the logical next step on the journey to series production. In the last few months the technology has been tested over many thousands of kilometers and configured for use in U.S. highway traffic.
“We are in a unique position among manufacturers that we are able to implement technologies across all business units and brands. We have transferred our Highway Pilot system to our U.S. Freightliner brand within a very short time frame and developed it for the world´s first autonomous truck to be licensed for road use,” reports Dr. Bernhard.
Spectacular world premiere near Las Vegas
The world premiere of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck took place near Las Vegas, in front of representatives of the media, government as well as business and finance. Trucks are by far the most important means of transport in the U.S. In 2012, trucks transported around 70 percent of all freight tonnage in the United States. This way, a total of 9.4 billion tons of freight were moved by trucks. Globally, the road freight transport is expected to even triple between now and 2050. Autonomous trucks provide the opportunity to cope with this growth in a manner that harmonizes economic and environmental needs.
“Nevada is proud to be making transportation history today by hosting the first U.S. public highway drive for a licensed autonomous commercial truck. The application of this innovative technology to one of America’s most important industries will have a lasting impact on our state and help shape the New Nevada economy,” said Gov. Sandoval. “The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has been closely monitoring the advancements being made in autonomous vehicle development and reviewed DTNA’s safety, testing and training plans before granting permission for this demonstration of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck.”
Freightliner Inspiration Truck: Revolutionary technology will be tested on public roads
The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is based on the series-produced U.S. Freightliner Cascadia Evolution model, but with the addition of the Highway Pilot technology. The latter comprises a front radar and a stereo camera plus tried-and-tested assistance systems such as the Adaptive Cruise Control+, as seen in the Mercedes-Benz Actros. For licensing on public roads in Nevada, the technology was further developed and the excellent interaction of components extensively tested. As part of the truck´s so-called Marathon Run, the Freightliner Inspiration Truck covered over 10,000 miles (over 16,000 kilometers) on a test circuit in Germany.
“The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is all about more sustainable transport, for the benefit of the economy, society and consumers alike. It remains our goal to be in a position to offer the Highway Pilot in series-produced vehicles from the middle of the coming decade. With licensing for road use in the USA we have reached an important milestone in autonomous truck driving,” emphasizes Martin Daum, President and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA).
“Daimler Trucks is actively urging dialogue with politicians, authorities and all other parties involved. Our next goal is to test the Highway Pilot technology on public roads in Germany too. Preparations are already under way”, Dr. Bernhard adds.
Initial research findings of Daimler Trucks clearly show autonomous driving relieves the strain of truck drivers
The Highway Pilot technology from Daimler Trucks demonstrably leads to more concentrated and thus more efficient long-haul truck drivers. This is a result of studies conducted on a cordoned-off test route during the pilot stage of the technology. Measurements of the probands´ brain currents (EEG) demonstrated that driver drowsiness decreases by about 25% when the truck is being operated in autonomous mode, and the driver all the while pursuing other meaningful operations. The studies also prove a high acceptance of the Highway Pilot technology and a rapid adaption phase of the probands. Relieving strains of the driver through autonomous truck driving leads to more road safety.
Consistent continuation of Freightliner Trucks technology strategy
With Daimler Trucks North America and the brands Freightliner, Western Star and Thomas Built Buses, the company is the clear market leader in the U.S. Its success can largely be attributed to the technological advantages of Daimler Trucks, which ensure optimum operating costs, reliability and service offerings for customers. Daimler Trucks focuses both globally and in North America on the strategically vital aspects of efficiency, safety and connectivity.
For example, the long-distance Freightliner Cascadia Evolution truck is the most fuel efficient truck on the NAFTA market. The Cascadia Evolution can be fitted with the integrated Detroit powertain, including the automated DT12 transmission. When compared with its EPA 2010 Cascadia predecessor, the Cascadia Evolution is up to seven percent more fuel efficient. The Cascadia Evolution is equipped as standard with the Detroit Connect telematics system. Detroit Connect includes an on-board diagnosis system and a fleet monitoring system. The Detroit Connect can determine the cause behind fault messages during the journey. For example, a real time report on the technical status of the engine is transmitted to the Detroit Customer Service Center where the data is analyzed and recommended corrective measures are then emailed to the driver. Detroit Connect can significantly reduce repair costs and increase operating times by up to six percent.
Martin Daum: “We are concentrating on our strengths when it comes to efficiency, safety and connectivity, and thereby sustainably securing our technological leadership. So we remain best-in-class when it comes to lowering real cost of ownership and are highly valued by our customers.” Daum adds: “With our innovative Super Truck, we have recently presented an important component of our strategy to make future road transportation as environmentally friendly and fuel efficient as possible. With the Freightliner Inspiration Truck we now demonstrate how our society, environment and economy can benefit from autonomous driving trucks.”
The Freightliner SuperTruck made its debut at the end of March at the Mid-America Trucking Show, the biggest commercial vehicle show in the U.S. In addition to the existing series-production vehicles the SuperTruck from Freightliner shows how targeted measures in aerodynamics, energy management, the use of an intelligent powertrain and other levers can further reduce fuel consumption. For example, the SuperTruck is equipped with the DT12 automated transmission and predictive technology that controls the vehicle speed using GPS and digital 3D maps. In test drives, the SuperTruck at a weight of 29.5 metric tons (65,000 lbs GVWR) consumed an average of about 19 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers (12.2 mpg) at a speed of around 100 km/h (65 mph). In this weight category regular consumption to date has been around the 39 liter mark.
The Freightliner Inspiration Truck represents the third demonstration of the consistent way in which the Freightliner Trucks technology strategy has developed in the USA. As a global commercial vehicle manufacturer Daimler is demonstrating how intelligent technologies can be rolled out across Group brands within the shortest time frame. Daimler Trucks´ worldwide platform strategy in particular allows economies of scale to be made.
Despite the common technologies, the Freightliner Inspiration Truck, the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck and both brands´ standard vehicles are independent vehicle concepts which are adapted to the appropriate market and set of demands.
Source: Daimler Trucks