Driverless electric Freightliner trucks to launch in 2027

Daimler Truck has revealed its first autonomous truck demonstrator that it says will pave the way to fully driverless freight hauling by 2027.

The demonstrator is an all-electric version of Daimler’s popular Freightliner Cascadia models, called the eCascadia.

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The trucks will be fitted with a suite of high-powered, long-range sensors that enable them to “see” its surrounding environment as well as a high-powered computer that can process the sensor data and make navigation decisions.

This will eventually enable Level 4 autonomous driving.

Working with Waymo and its own Torc subsidiary on autonomous systems, Daimler says the goal is to launch the trucks somewhere in the Southwest US, transporting goods from hub to hub as part of a middle-mile freight hauling service in 2027.

Daimler Truck North America CEO John O’Leary says these developments are looking to solve problems that will arise in the future.

“By combining zero-emission and autonomous technologies in one product, we are testing solutions for challenges our customers are likely to face in the future,” O’Leary says.

“We want to give them choices that allow them to do what they do best: keep the world moving today and well into the future.

“That takes a lot of foresight, questioning, testing, learning, improving and co-creating with our customers years in advance to ultimately find the right solution.

“This truck is a great example of the beginning of that development process.”

Daimler Truck is “fully committed” to bringing the autonomous Freightliner to series production, but only when the company deems the technology safe enough to begin testing on public roads.

Daimler autonomous technology head Joanna Butler says this process will be “a marathon, and not a sprint.”

Butler says Daimler are starting with “an autonomous vehicle that doesn’t sleep, doesn’t need to stop, and basically can drive continuously in the Level 4 hub-to-hub mode — that is our targeted use case.”

Daimler has been working on its own self-driving trucks since 2015, where it showed off a working prototype called the Freightliner Inspiration Truck.

The automaker went big, debuting the truck on the Hoover Dam and offering test rides at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

At the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show, Daimler showed off a production version of that prototype truck.

Daimler’s eCascadia demonstrator vehicle is all-electric, but the company is building its self-driving system to be “agnostic” when it comes to powertrain.

By doing this, the company can provide a range of models to its customers based on their specific needs, including hydrogen fuel cell propulsion systems.

The company is most interested in how an electric semi truck interacts with an autonomous driving system and vice versa. Driverless systems have been known to be extremely power-hungry, which could affect the range and towing, yet Daimler says it’s confident it can find a happy medium.

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