So, just how comfortable are you with the news that by 2025 there will be self-driving big rigs on this nation's highways and byways? Got a little bead of sweat forming on your brow? Thought so! Well according to the parent company of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, Daimler, in just about eleven years from now, they will have self-driving trucks that will reach speeds of up to 55 mph making them the first truck manufacturer to do so. According to Daimler, the technological advancement will improve productivity, fuel economy (due to a drastic cut in speeding), decrease road congestion and ultimately enhance road safety reports Daimler News.
Reportedly, the prototype dubbed the Mercedes-Benz Future truck will utilize a host of technological advances in order to guide it along roads safely such as sensors, cameras, automatic braking, stability control and lane keeping assist systems. The prototype, which was recently previewed in Germany on an autobahn, also utilizes GPS to analyze road topography ahead and adjusts the operation of the drivetrain to maximize fuel economy. The truck also retains a steering wheel as a safety precaution in case a driver needs to intervene quickly. At the current time however, the autonomous truck was unable to overtake vehicles or change lanes on its own but according to Daimler, this technology is coming down the pike.
But will the new autonomous trucks not require that the driver be allowed to snooze while on the job? NOT! Reportedly, there will be a seat-installed sensor that can detect if whether a driver is right where he is supposed to be and not in his berth catching a few winks. The driver still needs to start the vehicle and enter the flow of traffic but then activates a Highway Pilot, which then takes over the driving when the vehicle’s speed reaches 50 mph.
The truck driver will still be able to sit in his seat and perform administrative duties pertaining to the job at hand like invoicing, setting up of future loads and tweaking planned deliveries, all tasks that are typically handled by office personnel. According to Wolfgang Bernhard, a member of Daimler's Board of Management in the trucks and buses division, the trucking profession will be even more appealing as "…it will be possible for truckers to advance to new positions as transport managers, making truck driving a more attractive profession," he told Daimler News.
Now before all this autonomous technology can actually get greenlighted, there has to be clear and consistent road markings that vehicles can easily pick up via sensors. Vehicle manufacturers also have to make sure their cars and trucks can communicate with infrastructure and other vehicles, so there is quite a bit of red tape involved before self-driving vehicles can be put on the road safely. And these stringent guidelines are just the tip of the iceberg, so wipe that brow!