Mercedes-Benz showed off an autonomous semi-trailer truck that will be available in a decade and allow long-haul drivers to relax and tend to paperwork and other duties other than driving.
The Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 was displayed at the 2014 International Commercial Vehicle show this month.
"In ten years' time, trucks could be driving autonomously on motorways. Transport efficiency will increase, traffic will be safer for all road users and fuel consumption and CO2 emissions will be further reduced," Mercedes said in a blog post. "Autonomous driving is already possible at realistic speeds and in realistic motorway traffic situations."
Mercedes-Benz plans on connecting existing driver assistance systems found in consumer vehicles today with what it refers to as the enhanced sensors of a "Highway Pilot" system for long-haul trucking.
Because acceleration and braking is optimized, creating a constant flow of traffic, gas consumption and emissions of the Future Truck 2025 can be reduced, the company said. Transport times are also predictable.
The inside of the truck's cab looks like a lounge. The driver's seat rotates 45 degrees to allow autonomous driving away from the steering wheel, and instead of the speedometer and tachometer digital displays, monitors and tablets are placed in the cockpit.
Comparable to an autopilot in a plane, the truck's radar sensors and dual-camera system allows the truck to drive without relying on any kind of "guiding infrastructure."
"In spite of all this sophisticated technology, it's the driver who remains in charge. And in no way will the Highway Pilot replace the driver. It simply makes his job easier, while increasing the overall safety," Wolfgang Bernhard, head of Daimler Trucks Division at Daimler AG, said in a video about the autonomous vehicle.
The Highway Pilot technology will relieve the driver from tedious driving as he gains time for other "tasks and communications," the company said.
In autonomous mode, the truck controls its own speed and seeks optimal routes thorugh a navigation app. And because shipper and consignee are kept informed in real time about the location of a truck and its estimated arrival, the driver is relieved from the pressure of time, which remains "a large part of his workload," the company said in a statement.
"Because this truck drives in an environment where driving is boring, monotonous and not very exciting, highway pilot takes over, and it never gets tired, it's always 100% sharp, it's never angry, it's never distracted," Bernhard said. "So this is a much safer system."
Mercedes-Benz also replaces conventional headlights with cool blue LED lighting that also illuminates the grill of the truck.
The Highway Pilot can react to a range of traffic situations such as moving over for an approaching emergency vehicle.
Mercedes-Benz has already tested a Highway Pilot-equipped tractor trailer drive under real traffic conditions.