DUSSELDORF, GERMANY. “The hottest ‘things’ going online now are trucks,” according to Wolfgang Bernhard, head of Daimler Truck & Bus. “Connected trucks … will transform transportation completely,” he said during a press briefing.
The highlight of the event was a public demonstration of the company’s latest connectivity technologies with a live truck platoon running down the A52 Autobahn in daytime traffic. An extension of Daimler Truck’s Highway Pilot semi-autonomous driving system, Highway Pilot Connect allowed three tractor-trailers to couple into a platoon and switch control of the two following trucks to autonomous steering, accelerating and braking.
The demonstration included have a car cut between the two semi-autonomous trucks, which reacted by lengthening the following distance from 15 meters to 50 meters until the car left that lane. At that point, the trucks adjusted following distances to 15 meters again without any input from the drivers.
While “autonomous driving is easy to explain,” Bernhard said, “Connectivity … is more complex.” It holds the promise of solving underutilized truck capacity, improving traffic congestion, improving logistics efficiency and making drivers’ lives better, he said. “Soon, these problems can be problems of the past. We have the solution at hand – connectivity.
“This truck will always be driving, it will always be fully loaded, never be stuck in a traffic jam, it will never fail, and it will be piloted by a happy driver,” Bernhard said.
Daimler Truck has received German government permission to continue testing its truck platooning technology on an autobahn corridor between Lake Constance and Würzburg. Company officials also referred to similar testing in the U.S> in the near future, but refused to provide further details.
“Connectivity is being fully embraced by our company,” the Daimler Truck head said. “We have understood its potential and we are determined to realize it. Everything is set to launch those ideas into the market.”
As part of that embrace, Bernhard announce the formation of a separate division to focus on digital solutions and services for the entire truck group. It will be staffed with 200 employees and will coordinate efforts with Detroit Connect in North America, according to the company.