8, January, 2018
Daimler’s semi-autonomous truck puts self-driving features on the road
The vehicle company behind Mercedes-Benz cars announced Monday at CES 2019 that its new Freightliner Cascadia big-rig will include higher levels of robotic driving. The semi-autonomous trucks will start production in July in North America. It’s not fully self-driving, but it’s pushing the trucking industry deeper into an autonomous mode.
Truck CEO Martin Daum admitted he was skeptical of autonomous capabilities back in 2015, when Daimler unveiled its Freightliner Inspiration autonomous concept truck. Now he sees Level 4 autonomy (full autonomy in most situations, climates, and environments) coming to trucks within the decade.
For Daimler, L2 means trucks that can self-steer, accelerate, and decelerate on their own. It builds on auto braking and other advanced driver assistance systems already on Daimler’s trucks. Adaptive cruise control can bring the truck to a full stop at 0 mph.
Blind spot detection warns drivers about other cars, while auto-braking capabilities can stop on a dime when a pedestrian or other object crosses in front of the cab. Collision warnings flag drivers with info from bumper-mounted radar and front-facing cameras. If after an alert the driver doesn’t do anything, the car takes over. A drifting truck without a turn signal on will trigger a rumble warning and pulls the car back into the lane.
As the driver took his hands off the wheel, the truck stayed in its lane, and with adaptive cruise control it continued along at 55 mph without a foot on the pedal. Eventually a visual warning came on to grab the wheel and then started beeping when it took too long. When the car in front started slowing down and eventually stopped, the truck slowed on its own down to 0 mph.
But before a truly autonomous future is on the highways hauling our online deliveries, Daimler’s approach with partial autonomy is a strong start.
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