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Daimler unveils new electric autonomous Freightliner model

Daimler’s prototype is the brand’s first semi-truck to combine a battery electric drive with the latest autonomous truck technology

Daimler Truck has released details on its first semi-truck that combines autonomous technology with zero-emissions capabilities.

The latest version of the Freightliner eCascadia will have a battery electric drive and integrated autonomous driving technology as part of the demonstrator’s first release.

The truck, based on a battery electric eCascadia, is equipped with Torc’s autonomous driving software and the latest level four sensor and compute technology.

Torc Robotics is Daimler’s independent subsidiary for autonomous virtual driver technology.

While the model is still a research and advanced engineering project, the autonomous electric vehicle has the potential to evolve into a modular and scalable platform for various trucking applications.

“By combining zero-emissions and autonomous technologies in one product, we are testing solutions for challenges our customers are likely to face in the future,” Daimler Truck North America CEO and president John O’Leary says.

“We want to give them choices that allow them to do what they do best: keep the world moving today and well into the future. That takes a lot of foresight, questioning, testing, learning, improving and co-creating with our customers years in advance to ultimately find the right solution.

“This truck is a great example of the beginning of that development process.”

Image: Daimler Truck

Daimler Truck global autonomous technology group head Joanna Buttler says Daimler’s partnership with Torc is allowing the pair to make significant progress towards introducing autonomous trucks to the US by 2027.

“While we target autonomous trucks with conventional propulsion technology for this first market launch, we always look further into the future,” Buttler says.

“We will employ an iterative approach to the development, testing and optimisation of autonomous-electric technology, while exploring the most promising use cases in collaboration with our fleet customers.”

For the first time, the autonomous sensor suite and compute power, currently being tested on the autonomous diesel Cascadia, is packaged to fit the smaller day cab configuration of the battery electric eCascadia.

To ensure adequate cooling, Daimler Truck North America’s engineering team developed an advanced prototype air-cooling concept for the compute stack, which is efficiently positioned between the driver and passenger seats.

In the currently tested hub-to-hub application, the truck’s intent is to drive autonomously between freight centres along US highway corridors. By identifying synergies between zero emissions and autonomous infrastructure in a future scenario, Daimler says the charging infrastructure and autonomous freight hubs could be combined to charge and load simultaneously, further enhancing efficiency for carriers.

Daimler Truck has emphasised that it will leverage the highly scalable and profitable market opportunity that autonomous driving is expected to offer, and that it expects autonomous trucking to generate revenues of nearly $5 billion as early as 2030.

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