Autonomous Road Shipping
Daimler Trucks has just retro-fitted its self-driving system known as the Highway Pilot to a Mercedes-Benz eighteen-wheeler lorry and, as of late, has been driving it down a stretch of the German Autobahn. This has now become the latest milestone in the development of self-driving vehicles with it marking the very first time a self-driving production truck has been evaluated for its self-driving capabilities on a public highway. As with self-driving cars, Daimler says improvements to motorist safety is a convincing reason to also develop the technology for the road-shipping industry. By allowing self-driving systems to aid the lorry driver on any long-haul trips, Daimler claims it can help prevent operators from falling asleep at the wheel as well as limit the number of driver errors. In addition, when it comes to switching gears for speeding up or slowing down, the autonomous system can be more economical with fuel consumption reducing the carbon footprint of the vehicle in the process. The device uses both a short-range radar that can scan up to 70 metres ahead of the vehicle over a 130-degree arc, and a long-range radar that allows the vehicle to ‘see’ up to 250 metres ahead of it in a smaller 18-degree arc. The radars also operate in combination with Active Cruise Control, Active Brake Assist, as well as ‘steering’ cameras that keep track of roadway markings. However, as of yet, Highway Pilot is not yet advanced enough to allow drivers to completely relax on their journey as the operator still needs to be ready to take control of the vehicle in unexpected situations. So, while self-driving trucks still seems a long way off into the future, the chance to assess the technology in real-world situations will certainly help in bringing it ever closer.