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Mercedes Commits to Autonomous Driving in a BIG Way

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On: Tue, Jul 8, 2014 at 1:52PM | By: Chris Weiss

Mercedes Commits to Autonomous Driving in a BIG Way

Like it or not, a world in which cars are capable of driving themselves is gradually becoming reality. Daimler leaps ahead of other automakers into opening our eyes to the freight truck of the future. The Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 is a fully autonomous big rig that can carry driver and freight over highways. More than just a fanciful concept car built for the expo center, the Future Truck is a working prototype able to drive itself right now.

The Future Truck has Mercedes' Intelligent Highway Pilot assistance system, which gives it fully autonomous driving capabilities up to speeds of 53 mph. That top speed leaves it a little short of the type of speeds a truck would need for keeping up with interstate highway traffic driving across the United States, but as the truck's name indicates, Mercedes is giving itself just over 10 more years to bring the design to market.

Daimler held a world premiere of the truck in Germany last week in front of media, government, business, and finance representatives. It let the truck loose on a stretch of the A14 autobahn near thecity of Magdeburg, allowing it to drive itself in "realistic driving situations."

As is the case with self-driving cars, one of the purported advantages of a self-driving big rig is increased safety. The idea is to remove human error from roadways, leading to safer commuting.The truck also promises to increase driving efficiency, helping to cut the cost of shipping.

"Autonomous driving will revolutionize road freight transport and create major benefits for everyone involved," says Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, member of Daimler’s Board of Management. "With the Future Truck 2025, Daimler Trucks is once again highlighting its pioneering role in innovative technologies and opening up a new era in truck transport. We aim to be the number one manufacturer in this market of the future, which we believe will offer solid revenue and earnings potential."

Some folks are wary of the idea of self-driving cars, citing how common events like automotive recalls and computer crashes are and how devastating they could be within the framework of a self-driving highway. I'm generally supportive of the idea of self-driving cars, assuming they include the proper amount of failsafe protectionand redundancy, but I must admit that the idea of a highway filled with 18-wheelers ghosting across America is a bit unsettling.

Mercedes is just beginning its autonomous truck journey and has a lot of work to do to get the truck to market, both in terms of refining the technology and working with industry, government, and the public. Daimler's evolving self-driving system will rely on truck hardware, such as adaptive cruise control, as well as vehicle-to-x communications.

As for working with government, Bernhardsays, "If the legislative framework for autonomous driving can be created quickly, the launch of the Highway Pilot is conceivable by the middle of the next decade. That’s why Daimler Trucks is committed to maintain a dialogue with government officials and authorities, and with all other parties affected by this development. We believe the chances of success are good, because autonomous driving combines the ability to achieve business and technology objectives with the creation of benefits for society and the environment."


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