Autonomous trucking: Behind the hype
With Germany allowing the first driverless production truck to operate on a public highway last month, the autonomous vehicle hype has reached an all-time high. But will the momentum suffice to make it a commercial reality?
There may still be an internal quarrel between the Mercedes-Benz team in Germany and the Freightliner crew in North America as to when exactly the tide turned on the autonomous truck movement, but both would agree that it happened sometime in early 2015, and with some sort of Daimler AG branding attached to it.
Autonomous driving, not long ago mere science fiction and subject to heated ideological discussion, is now widely considered a feasible feat in the commercial road transport space, and the global Daimler Group empire has arguably given it the nudge it needed to be taken seriously on the big automotive stage.
In March, Daimler subsidiary Freightliner laid the foundation for the change of course when it stole the limelight at the Mid-America Truck Show in Louisville, Kentucky, with the unveiling of the so-called Super Truck. The result of a costly design exercise, the concept vehicle aimed to combine the idea of aerodynamic optimisation with existing energy recovery technologies to achieve the best possible fuel economy in a heavy-duty vehicle.
While it wasn’t the first concept vehicle to do so – Volvo and Scania had been equally involved in the field in the past, for example – it set the tone for a high-tech arms race within the Daimler organisation that has made driverless technology more perceptible than ever before.
The full story has appeared in the November edition of Prime Mover. To get your copy, click here.