Daimler Tests World's First Self-Driving Truck On German Highway

Oct 03, 2015 02:19 PM EDT | John Nassivera

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Daimler has revealed that it had the opportunity to test drive Mercedes-Benz's self-driving truck on a highway in southern Germany Friday.

The automonous truck, called Actros, is the first of its kind, and Friday's test marked the first time that it was taken out in real traffic conditions, according to Phys.org. The vehicle drove for about nine miles on the A8 motorway with a driver in the cab, though he kept his hands off the wheel.

Features include the intelligent "Highway Pilot" system, radars, cameras and active speed regulators.

"Today's premiere is a further important step towards the market maturity of autonomously driving trucks- and towards the safe, sustainable road freight transport of the future," said Wolfgang Bernhard, board member responsible for Daimler Trucks and Buses, who sat in the driver's seat in the test.

"Safe testing in real traffic is absolutely decisive for the development of this technology to market maturity. We are now able to proceed with this."

The test was held between Stuttgart and Denkendorf in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, the home of Daimler's headquarters.

Daimler first introduced the technology back in May on the Hoover Dam in Nevada, but it was able to take the truck for a spin on motorways on an automated basis after obtaining a special permit, RT reported. The German automaker said in a press release that the safety systems and sensors work with the Highway Pilot to check the area in front of the truck and allow the vehicle to take control of itself "in certain situations."

The importance of a driver being able to take over at any time was also stressed, as Daimler said that the system offered during the ride for the driver to take over Actros as soon as it entered flowing traffic in the right hand lane. A button is provided for the driver to confirm or deny the opportunity.

Such a system can be useful when Actros encounters bad weather or deteriorating road markings, Phys.org reported. If the driver does not respond to the offer to take over, the truck will stop automatically.

The Highway Pilot, along with the truck's front-mounted radar and stereo camera and Daimler's Adaptive Cruise Control System, has already been tested for around 20,000 kilometers in Germany and the U.S.

Actros performed well in regards to breaking and staying in its lane while keeping a safe distance from other vehicles, and state premier Winfried Kretschmann praised the truck for its safety features, according to RT.

"Autonomously driving and networked vehicles improve the flow of traffic and can play a decisive role in helping to avoid traffic jams and relieving the strain on drivers," Kretschmann said in a statement. "They also boost traffic safety."

Daimler also said that the self-driving truck's design helps it fight pollution, as its optimized gear shifting, acceleration and braking allow it to generate at least five percent less CO2 emissions.

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