Daimler is first to get a license for road use in the State of Nevada for an autonomous truck. Now truckers can sagely text while driving.
Daimler Trucks unveiled at an event in Nevada at the Hoover Dam the world's first self-driving Truck with a road license. The Daimler Freightliner Inspiration Truck with Highway Pilot system has a license for road use in the State of Nevada.
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The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is based on the series-produced US Freightliner Cascadia model, but with the addition of the Highway Pilot technology. The self-driving truck system is comprised of a front radar and a stereo camera plus tried and tested assistance systems such as the Adaptive Cruise Control, as seen in the standard Freightliner Cascadia models and the Mercedes-Benz Actros.
For licensing on public roads in Nevada, the technology was further developed and the interaction of components extensively tested. As part of the truck´s so-called Marathon Run, the Freightliner Inspiration Truck covered over 10,000 miles (over 16,000 kilometers) on a test circuit in Papenburg, Germany.
As soon as the autonomous truck is on the highway, the driver can activate the Highway Pilot system. The driver receives a visual prompt in the instrument cluster to activate the "Highway Pilot." The vehicle switches to autonomous mode and adapts to the speed of traffic. The driver receives a confirmation message in the instrument cluster, "Highway Pilot active." Now the trucker can safely text or read the newspaper.
Daimler studied the effect of autonomous driving on truckers. The results are that driver is more attentive and consequently able to perform better if the use of the Highway Pilot system allows him to also do other jobs instead of having to perform monotonous driving-related tasks. With the help of the objective brainwave measurement (EEG), it was possible to prove that drowsiness was reduced by 25% when the truck operated in autonomous mode and the test subject performed interesting secondary tasks (e.g. on a tablet computer).
The drivers were also asked subjective questions about their level of fatigue. These results also indicate that drivers are more alert and more attentive while driving in autonomous mode.
The Highway Pilot system uses a complex stereo camera and radar systems with lane-keeping and collision-prevention functions. It regulates the speed, applies the brakes and steers. This combination of systems creates an autonomous vehicle that can operate safely under a wide range of driving conditions – the truck automatically complies with posted speed limits, regulates the distance from the vehicle ahead or uses the stop-and-go function during rush hour.
The Highway Pilot system does not initiate autonomous passing maneuvers. These have to be executed by the driver. The same is true for leaving the highway and changing lanes. Via the user interface the Highway Pilot keeps the driver visually informed about its current status and accepts instructions. The driver can deactivate the Highway Pilot manually and is able to override the system at any time. If the vehicle is no longer able to process crucial aspects of its environment, e.g. due to road construction or bad weather, the driver is prompted to retake control. In addition to a visual prompt in the instrument cluster there is also a subsequent audible notification.
A radar unit centered in the front bumper of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck monitors the road at close and long range. The long-range sensor goes out to about 820 feet (250 meters) at an aperture angle of 18 degrees and detects vehicles in a long and narrow area. The short-range sensor goes out to about 230 feet (70 meters) at an aperture angle of 130 degrees and detects vehicles in a wider area that could merge into the lane in front of the truck. The front radar unit forms the basis for the Adaptive Cruise Control system and the Active Brake Assist system, which are already familiar from the Mercedes-Benz Actros and the Detroit Assurance™ series of safety systems in the series production model of the Freightliner Cascadia Evolution.
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The area in front of the truck is also monitored by a stereo camera mounted above the dashboard on the inside of the windshield. The camera has a range of about 100 meters (328 feet) and aperture angles of 45 degrees horizontally and 27 degrees vertically. The camera recognizes pavement markings and communicates with the steering gear of the Highway Pilot system to keep the truck in its lane autonomously.