Mercedes-Benz tests automated Actros truck on German motorway

The Actros makes history with a drive between Denkendorf and Stuttgart Airport.

Mercedes-Benz tests automated Actros truck on German motorway
Prime minister Winfried Kretschmann (left) with Daimler boss Wolfgang Bernhard.


Mercedes-Benz has unveiled the first series production truck to drive on a motorway on a partially automated basis.

The truck was an Actros equipped with Daimler’s intelligent highway pilot system, a combination of assistance and safety systems and sensors that scan the area in front of the truck and instigate safety measures if required.

Taking part in the maiden journey was Baden-Württemberg prime minister Winfried Kretschmann and Daimler board member responsible for trucks and buses Dr Wolfgang Bernhard.

The test drive took Kretschmann and Bernhard from Denkendorf to Stuttgart Airport on the A8 motorway.

Daimler says the highway pilot system asks the driver, when entering a highway, whether it should take over the operation of the vehicle.

After pressing a button to approve, the "Actros meticulously keeps to its lane and maintains the optimum distance to the vehicle in front of it", the company says.

"Should the distance become too small or if a vehicle cuts in front of it, the truck brakes."

When exiting a highway, the truck asks the driver to "take control and the truck reverts from automated driving mode to manual control".

In the case of an obstacle appearing in front of the truck, the system also asks the driver to regain control.

Once it is passed, the system will ask to take back control of the vehicle.

Daimler ,-Mercedes -Benz ,-Actros ,-Highway -Pilot ,-ATN2


"The highway pilot does not replace the driver, but supports and relieves the strain on them by dealing with monotonous stretches for them and taking care of annoying stop-and-go driving in a traffic jam," Daimler says.

"The redundancy in the sensor system and fail-safer components such as the steering and brakes ensure an extremely high safety standard.

"If the minimum prerequisites for the system are not present due to bad weather or missing road markings, the highway pilot issues acoustic and visual impulses to ask the driver to take over.

"The driver has sufficient time to take over the task of driving. If there is no reaction from the driver, the truck brings itself to a standstill independently and safely."

The highway pilot sensors, radar and stereo camera are connected to the Actros’ powertrain, including its 12.8-litre OM 471 engine, meaning it does not require the internet to function.

The Freightliner Inspiration truck that made its debut in Las Vegas also used the highway pilot system. However, the German version was toned down a little to partial automation to meet local government requirements.

Where the Freightliner was categorised as a level three autonomous vehicle, the Mercedes Benz is classed a level lower. It essentially means the driver of the Benz must have their attention on the road at all times.

The Freightliner concept vehicle was fitted with a tablet device and swivel seat which meant that the driver could browse the internet or engage in other administrative tasks while the truck drove itself.

The highway pilot system is an evolution and integration of existing systems such as adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning. Two radar beams monitor traffic ahead and maintain a safe distance while cameras monitor lane markings. This information is sent to an electronically controlled steering box and keeps the prime mover in its lane.

According to Bernhard, Daimler has conducted research that shows  autonomous systems can reduce driver fatigue.

"By measuring brain activity we’ve seen that drowsiness can be reduced by as much as 20 per cent," he says.

However, Bernhard says the company has no plans to take on level four automation — where the driver doesn’t have to be present at the wheel of the truck.


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