Daimler ditches platooning for more automation

Daimler eyes level 4 trucks and new level-2 Freightliner Cascadia

Daimler ditches platooning for more automation
The new Cascadia is to have level 2 automation


Daimler Trucks has used the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to reveal its €500 million (A$803 million) next global step in automated vehicles, along with a new Freightliner Cascadia.

But it appears to have marked the end of its road with platooning.

The automation move is part of an aim to bring Society of Automation Engineers (SAE) level 4 trucks to market by the end of the 2020s.

Technology in such "highly automated trucks" should allow for non-intervention on truck controls by drivers between designated points and Daimler is looking to skip SAE level 3, which would involve limited intervention.  

Level 3 is seen as failing to offer enough customers operator efficiencies to warrant Daimler’s investment.

Daimler trucks and buses head Martin Daum places the move, which will involve recruitment of 200 new "mechatronics engineers or robotics specialists with IT and programming skills", as part of the group’s automation strategy.

Read how Daimler kicked off its US platooning test regime, here

"As a leader of our industry, we’ve been pioneering automated trucking," Daum says.

"In 2015, our Freightliner Inspiration Truck got the first road license ever for an automated commercial vehicle.

"Now we take automated trucking to the next level: we’re ready to launch the first partially automated new Freightliner Cascadia in 2019 – and next, we tackle highly automated trucks.

"Highly automated trucks will improve safety, boost the performance of logistics and offer a great value proposition to our customers – and thus contribute considerably to a sustainable future of transportation."

The new Cascadia offers level 2 partially automated driving features, the group saying this makes it "the first-ever partially automated series production truck on North American roads".

"With Active Drive Assist (Mercedes-Benz Actros, Fuso Super Great) and Detroit Assurance 5.0 with Active Lane Assist (Freightliner new Cascadia), Daimler Trucks is already bringing partially automated driving features into series production," it says of the vehicle.

"The new system can independently brake, accelerate and steer. Unlike systems that only work above a certain speed, Active Drive Assist / Detroit Assurance 5.0 make partially automated driving possible in all speed ranges for the driver for the first time in a series production truck.

"Active lateral control and the connection of longitudinal or lateral control in all speed ranges are new thanks to the fusion of radar and camera information."

While the automation progression appears assured, platooning has fallen out of favour.

Daimler insists that fuel savings fail to add up, "even in perfect platooning conditions" and especially when platooning truck disconnect and must accelerate to reconnect, though missing is any mention of possible driver-cost savings.

"At least for US long-distance applications, analysis currently shows no business case for customers driving platoons with new, highly aerodynamic trucks," it says.

 Otherwise, the group is happy to sing the praises of what SAE level 4 trucks should offer.

"They enhance safety in traffic thanks to a redundancy of systems and a multitude of sensors and systems that never get tired or lose attention – because today, a great majority of accidents are still due to human error," it says.

"Level 4 highly automated trucks also improve efficiency and productivity, among other things, through higher utilisation of the vehicles – practically around the clock.

"They also make it possible to travel during light traffic times, for example at night, and thus avoid traffic jams by intelligent route management.

"This has positive effects for truck customers and for the entire economy: the competitiveness of an economy is strongly correlated with the efficiency of logistics.

"This aspect becomes more and more relevant as global road freight volume is expected to more than double between 2015 and 2050."


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