Semi-Truck Of The Future
July 7, 2014

Semi-Truck Of The Future

Every day, we get one day closer to the future, and technology is keeping pace. In the automotive industry, manufacturers are producing new and innovative ideas to implement into their vehicles — everything from high tech performance parts to self-driving vehicles.

One company has taken the self-driving concept to a new level. Mercedes has developed a tractor-trailer that drives itself. It is called the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025.

Recently, Mercedes put the truck to the test. While the 18-wheeler cruised down a three-mile stretch of the A14 Autobahn highway, near Magdeburg, Germany, the driver surfed the net for food recipes on a tablet computer, according to the media. The driver also didn’t have his hands on the wheel or eyes on the road.

It is the first hands-off prototype freight vehicle that Mercedes says will eliminate human error. With all the tractor-trailer crashes you hear about, this could be one way of reducing them. Although, I feel it won’t totally eliminate them due to unforeseen circumstances.

The truck utilizes special cameras and multiple radar devices to keep itself in the lane and monitor the vehicles around it. It may also be set up to communicate with other vehicles on the road as this technology moves forward. The sensors have a range of 77 to 273 yards and the cameras can identify single-lane and double-lane roads, pedestrians and other objects (whether they are moving or not) and respond accordingly.

“The Future Truck 2025 leads to more efficiency, and better safety and connectivity. This in turn results in a more sustainable transport system to the benefit of the economy, society and consumers,” head of Daimler Trucks, Wolfgang Bernhard said.

During the test, the truck merged into traffic with 20 other vehicles, responded to slower moving cars and even changed lanes to allow an emergency vehicle to pass on the left.

“It’s strange at first, but you quickly learn to trust it and then it’s great,” Hans Luft, the driver of the truck stated. As observers watched, Luft removed his hands from the wheel and waved to them, also swiveling his seat 45-degrees while using a tablet computer.

Mercedes also claims the truck will be more fuel-efficient because it is controlled by a computer. When the truck has merged with the traffic flow, it will maintain a 50 mph speed. Other vehicles already have similar systems like active breaking assistance, guidance and mapping systems and other hi-tech, futuristic devices.

If a car pulls out in front of the truck, it will automatically slow down to avoid ramming into the back bumper. However, the truck will not pass by itself — so the driver will have to physically do that. The driver still needs to physically start the vehicle and merge with traffic. Once the truck has merged and reaches 50 mph, the driver is prompted to activate the “Highway Pilot” system

The truck also has a monitor under the seat to keep track of the driver’s actions — the driver must remain in the seat. According to Mercedes, the driver is still responsible for controlling the vehicle, but they will not be considered drivers, instead they will be called “transport managers.”

The cost of the vehicle hasn’t been released, and before it can be roadworthy, there are regulatory and legal issues to overcome before it is allowed on the freeways. For instance, clear and constant road markings will have to be maintained, certain laws may have to be changed, like Europe’s eyes constantly on the road law and the adaptation of onboard data collection regulations for international travel will have to be implemented.

“The deployment of autonomous vehicles today is less about technological capabilities and more about the ability of stakeholders to handle the various commercial and governance complexities associated with having such vehicles on the road,” said Ernst and Young in a research note.

Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz

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