From a vision to reality.
The spectacular Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 study will be providing a visually exciting and technically feasible take on the long-distance truck of tomorrow at the 2014 International Commercial Vehicle show (IAA). In ten years' time, trucks could be driving autonomously on motorways. Transport efficiency will increase, traffic will be safer for all road users, and fuel consumption and CO2 emissions will be further reduced. To do this Mercedes-Benz connects existing assistance systems with enhanced sensors to the "Highway Pilot" system. Autonomous driving is already possible at realistic speeds and in realistic motorway traffic situations. The Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 provides a glimpse of the future shape of trucks.
Exterior: flowing forms with a light show.
In terms of design, the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 study combines function, efficiency and emotion in a fascinating way. Innovative forms and the lighting engineering of tomorrow send the conventional truck cab into the future. The designers have leveraged the opportunity presented by future length specifications. Compact cameras replace conventional exterior mirrors. Its windscreen resembles a visor. When the fully drivable study is being controlled manually and on the move, the lights are white. When the truck is driving autonomously, the colour of the lights changes from white to blue. They then pulsate strongly, thus symbolising the truck's powerful heartbeat and clearly indicating the vehicle's current operating mode to other road users.
Interior: calming design for a new way of working.
The workplace for driving is calm and uncluttered like a modern, paperless office. Wood flows from the floor to the instrument panel with generous use of the material underlying the inviting atmosphere and sense of well-being on board. The dark finish is strongly grained, open-pore and has a naturally aged effect. The instrument panel is calm and uncluttered, with displays separating instruments and the exterior mirrors. When the truck is travelling autonomously, the driver may recline their seat and also turn it by 45 degrees into the space, allowing them to consciously adopt a relaxed, comfortable working position. At the same time, indirect lighting illuminates the interior without glare. To communicate from the future workplace the driver uses a tablet computer. This is accommodated in the newly designed centre console but is removable. Here the driver can process documents, schedule more destinations, accept further orders and arrange the next break. The computer screen can be configured to suit individual requirements, also enabling the driver to call up all key trip data.
Radar sensors and a camera scan the surroundings.
Radar sensors and camera technology enable the Future Truck to drive autonomously, independently of other vehicles or central control stations. Its technical features are thus crucial in giving the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 its outstanding capabilities as an autonomous vehicle. For Mercedes-Benz, the culmination of this is the highly intelligent "Highway Pilot" system, which resembles the autopilot on an aircraft. Networking with other trucks or passenger cars extends its abilities further, but is not necessary for autonomous driving.
Blind Spot Assist: more safety when turning and changing lanes.
Blind Spot Assist warns the truck driver about other road users not only when turning; it also warns about imminent collisions with stationary obstacles – for example, signs or lamps – and serves as an assistance system when changing lanes. These sensors form the heart of the new Blind Spot Assist system from Mercedes-Benz. The radar sensor modules are arranged in such a way that they cover the area parallel to the truck over the entire length of a tractor/trailer combination or drawbar combination. In addition, this strip is extended forwards to two metres in front of the truck.
The transport system of tomorrow will be networked and autonomous.
All sensors on board the Future Truck 2025 are networked (multi-sensor fusion), and provide a complete image of the surroundings. All moving and stationary objects in the truck's vicinity are registered.
Fusion of the data by a high-performance multi-core processor in the central computer links the data from all sensors in the whole area in front of and beside the truck.
The sensor and camera technology is active from standstill to the legally permitted maximum speed for trucks. By intervening in the steering, it automatically keeps the truck safely in the centre of its lane. The system also includes a three-dimensional digital map, which is already used for the assistance system Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC). This means that the truck is always fully aware of the road's course and topography.
V2V and V2I – communication between vehicles and the outside world.
The "Highway Pilot" is ideally partnered with V2V and V2I networking. Every vehicle equipped with this in the near future will transmit continuous information to its surroundings. This includes vehicle position and model, dimensions, direction of travel and speed, any acceleration and braking maneuvers and the bend radii negotiated.
The frequency of information transfer depends on the vehicle speed and the intensity of any changes in its movement. It varies between one message per second when cruising to ten times this interval when changes are significant.
In an ideal scenario, an uninterrupted chain of communication forms along a route that rigorously informs the driver and vehicle about road and traffic conditions well in advance. All these data inform the driver and the onboard computer about events happening outside the range of vision in good time. Therefore, the driver and vehicle are aware of obstacles in advance, before they can become a hazard.
Future becomes reality: autonomous driving in practice.
After joining the motorway, the driver of the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 merges with the traffic flow in the appropriate lane. The system then prompts the driver to activate the "Highway Pilot". The driver activates it, and the vehicle switches to autonomous mode.
According to the given traffic situation, the Future Truck 2025 is on the road independently, as no vehicle in front is needed as a reference to guide it through the traffic. It acts autonomously in its lane. If there is another vehicle travelling ahead, the truck can adapt to its speed within the permitted limit and maintains a set safety distance. It is therefore always possible for other vehicles to join the lane safely. The safety distance is also always maintained – the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 adapts perfectly to its environment. The Future Truck 2025 operates independently of other road users thanks to networking. However, to fully benefit in terms of logistical efficiency and making optimum use of infrastructure, comprehensive networking is desirable. This development is certain to occur in a gradual manner. Open standards and protocols are important to this end.
Autonomous driving: set to become reality in the short term.
One of the most interesting questions on the subject of autonomous driving is the time horizon envisaged for its realisation. In purely technical terms, turning it into reality on the roads is already feasible in approximately five years. In terms of passenger car development cycles, a possible start is 2020. Owing to the more complex factors for heavy commercial vehicles, the time horizon for such vehicles will, however, be rather longer – realistically, implementation is possible within ten years, in view of the legal considerations that still remain to be clarified.
The introduction of autonomous driving will not happen digitally from one day to the next, as development is progressing in a gradual manner: evolutionary stages are necessary to revolutionise goods haulage on the roads. In the coming years, new and improved assistance systems will continue to pave the clearly set-out way to autonomous driving.