There’s been a lot of talk recently about autonomous cars, but what about autonomous trucks?
At the 2014 Hannover Commercial Vehicle Show, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the Future Truck 2025, a self-driving big rig that the company says could make roads safer.
While most U.S. buyers only know its luxury cars, Mercedes parent Daimler is actually one of the world’s largest manufacturers of big trucks. In addition to selling Mercedes trucks, it also owns the Freightliner and Western Star brands.
The Future Truck uses technology developed for Mercedes’ passenger cars to pilot itself. An embedded sensor scans the road ahead for obstacles, while a windshield-mounted stereo camera “sees” lane markers and traffic signs.
Sensors mounted on the sides of the tractor and trailer cover lanes to the left or right, forming a standalone blind-spot assist feature like the ones that are already common on passenger cars.
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As any driver’s ed student will tell you, trucks have massive blind spots. So it’s a good thing Mercedes plans to put this system into production soon, whether the Future Truck’s other features prove feasible or not.
Three-dimensional maps, adapted from the Predictive Powertrain Control system already used on some production trucks, help the Future Truck see further ahead. All of these systems are also networked, allowing the truck’s computers to view its surroundings as one contiguous whole.
Mercedes doesn’t have any firm production plans for this self-driving truck, but its engineers believe the technology could yield the same benefits it’s expected to bring to passenger cars, including increased safety and fuel economy.
The German automaker will likely put an autonomous passenger car on the road first. It’s already demonstrated a prototype S-Class, and hopes to have a production version ready by the end of the decade.
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