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Daimler AG looks to put self-driving trucks on the road by 2025

Daimler truck division head Wolfgang Bernhard.
Daimler truck division head Wolfgang Bernhard.
Photo by Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images

Self-driving cars may be ready to roll on California roads, but Daimler AG’s self-driving trucks still need to have some kinks worked out before they hit the highways and byways of America. In fact, it will probably take another 11 years, although the self-driving technology is already available in Daimler’s new S-class luxury Mercedes Benz sedans, and is being used as a blueprint for the company’s Actros trucks, which will ”steer, brake and accelerate independently, while the driver keeps his/her hands off the steering wheel, although they can override the “Highway Pilot” and take back full control at any time.

“We aim to be the No. 1 manufacturer in this market of the future, which we believe will offer solid revenue and earnings potential,” Wolfgang Bernhard, head of the Daimler Trucks division, said at the driving demonstration of the Actros prototype on a closed part of the A14 Autobahn near the eastern German city of Magdeburg. “We don’t only talk about innovation, we implement it to underline our leadership position.”
While the truck was able to reduce speed and swerve to the side of the road as a police-car model raced past thanks to 4 radar sensors and a stereo camera, Bernhard admitted that it is unable (at present) to change lanes or pass other vehicles on its own.

“Automated drive is a future trend,” Frank Schwope, a Hanover, Germany-based analyst at NordLB, commented prior to the Daimler truck’s test drive. “People might be a little afraid at first, as with many technical innovations before they become commonplace. But self-driving technologies will ultimately make trucks significantly safer.”

“The Highway Pilot may help to extend driving times between drivers’ obligatory breaks, reduce downtime for repairs and lower insurance premiums,” added Bernhard. In the meantime, the company will have to wait until lawmakers in the US and Europe come up with new motor vehicle operating regulations to accommodate the new technology before the company is ready to debut their self-driving trucks there.