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Focus: Transportation Management

Feature Article from Our Transportation Management Subject Area - See All

From SCDigest's On-Target E-Magazine

- July 8, 2014 -


Supply Chain News: Self-Driving Trucks are Coming, as Daimler Showcases New Technology


Daimler Tests New Truck on the Autobahn, as Driver Works on iPad; Company Targets 2025 Commercial Date

SCDigest Editorial Staff


Does the US only have to work through a truck driver shortage for another decade or so?

Perhaps, as German auto and truck maker Daimler said last week it was targeting 2025 for release of a self-driving truck into the marketplace.

The Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 has successfully completed its first journey on a highway in Germany, thanks to new technology borrowed in large part from a system already available on Daimler's new Mercedes-Benz S-Class luxury sedan.

SCDigest Says:

In addition to the changes in driver profiles, self-driving trucks may help to extend driving times between drivers' obligatory breaks, reduce downtime for repairs and lower insurance premiums.
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In addition to the Mercedes brand truck in Europe, the company sells Freightliner brand tractors in the US and the Fuso brand in Japan. Daimler is actually the world's largest truck maker.

The system makes use of already-available driver assist technologies, such as automatic braking, stability control and lane-warning systems, but adds a variety of radar systems to the mix.

In order to allow the truck to autonomously drive alongside other cars, what Daimler calls the Highway Pilot uses a combination of vehicle-to-vehicle communication via Wi-Fi (with a range of 1,640 feet), lateral radar on both sides of the truck (with a range of 197 feet) and full range (820 feet) and short-range (230 feet) radar mounted on the front of the truck. The truck also uses a front stereo camera, mounted just under its windshield.

At the media event demonstration, the truck drove itself on a highway in Germany at 85 kilometers per hour with no driver intervention.

However, the technology currently requires a driver for lane changes and passing other vehicles on the road. But Mercedes is working hard on those problems.

A video of the test shows the truck driving down an empty highway before the camera cuts to the driver, who promptly takes his eyes off the road and his hands off the wheel to operate an iPad.

Mercedes-Benz says the highway pilot system will save drivers from having to perform monotonous tasks, while giving them "more time for tasks that were previously handled by office workers at shipping companies."

In other words, to find financial benefit from the technology that will still require a driver in the tractor, drivers will be performing office duties while the truck takes itself down the highway. This is surely going to change the profile of drivers, who would still need commercial driver's licenses, but would need to both enjoy and be good at non-driving activities as well.

The heavy-duty Actros truck drove back and forth along a stretch of the A14 Autobahn that's currently closed due to construction. During the 45-minute trip, the truck reduced speed and swerved to the side of the road as a police-car model raced past as part of the test.

"We aim to be the No. 1 manufacturer in this market of the future, which we believe will offer solid revenue and earnings potential," Wolfgang Bernhard, head of the Daimler Trucks division, said at the driving demonstration near the eastern German city of Magdeburg. "We don't only talk about innovation, we implement it to underline our leadership position."

(Transportation Management Article Continued Below)



What Will be the Legislative and Regulatory Hurdles?

As with drone parcel deliveries and container ships controlled by joy sticks by "captains" on land (see Will We Soon See Drone Cargo and Container Ships?) the technology to produce self-driver trucks is likely to race far ahead of legislation and regulations that will give the OK and set the rules for use of such vehicles.

Promotional Video of New Self-Driving Daimler Truck



Key to that in turn will be collaboration across countries to agree on a set of rules so that truck manufacturers can design to one basic set of requirements, versus needing to meet different rules in every jurisdiction, which would be prohibitively costly.

In addition to the changes in driver profiles, self-driving trucks may help to extend driving times between drivers' obligatory breaks, reduce downtime for repairs and lower insurance premiums.

There is much activity and R&D in this space. For example, Sweden's Scania, a unit of Volkswagen, is among peers working on "platooning" technology that allows several trucks to travel in tight convoy with a sole human driver in the lead vehicle.

What do you think of the rise of self-driving trucks? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button (for email) or section (for web form) below.



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