Daimler launches autonomous platooning technology

Daimler unveils Highway Pilot Connect and commits to a series of internet-related communication technology advances with new business unit

Daimler launches autonomous platooning technology
Daimler's new Highway Pilot Connect technology for vehicle-to-vehicle communication on show.


Demonstrating its advancing autonomous technology, Daimler has unveiled a new Highway Pilot Connect technology for vehicle-to-vehicle communication with three Wi-Fi-connected trucks platooning down the A52 autobahn near Düsseldorf this week.

Serving as an example of the truck maker’s commitment to regularly release new technology advances, Daimler says the three autonomous vehicles "presented an impressive example of the possibilities opened up by the digital connection of trucks."

An extended version of the Highway Pilot system launched in 2014 as part of the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 study, Highway Pilot Connect adds electronic vehicle docking to the system, which uses constant vehicle-to-vehicle communication over Wi-Fi to keep the vehicles informed of their location in terms of the environment and the trucks around them.

Using the new technology, a platooning combination can save fuel consumption by up to seven per cent, Daimler says, while also saving road space and improving traffic safety.

This has been achieved by shortening the safe distance between vehicles from 50m to 15m, according to the truck maker, reducing both drag and CO2 emissions.

"This makes fuel consumption figures of around 25 l/100 km possible for a loaded semitrailer combination with a gross weight of 40t," the company says.

"This corresponds to a consumption of only 0.66 l/100 km per tonne, or CO2 emissions of 13.3 g per kilometre per tonne.

"Well below the figures for any passenger car with an internal combustion engine."

The shortened driving distance is on the back of a drop in braking times; as each vehicle in the platooning knows what the others are doing, they are able to automatically brake if necessary.

Human reaction times sit around 1.4 seconds, Daimler says, a time that can be minimised to 0.1 second through the Highway Pilot Connect system.

This means all vehicles in the platoon would begin braking within 0.1 second.

"Using connected communication between the truck and other vehicles and the surroundings, we can improve traffic flow and lower fuel consumption and emissions," Daimler truck product engineering and global procurement head Sven Ennerst says.

"At the same time intelligent trucks help to lower the number of traffic accidents.

"This is an important step on our way towards accident-free driving."

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The Highway Pilot Connect demonstration hits the A52 autobahn.


Technology commitment

The company’s new commitment will be in the hands of a new Digital Solutions & Services business unit from April 1, which will integrate all activities related to connected vehicles, including telematics services FleetBoard and Detroit Connect.  

Daimler AG Board of Management member and Daimler Trucks & Buses chief Dr Wolfgang Bernhard says the company is investing around half a billion euros in the connection of its trucks, and in the creation of associated new services and digital solutions, in the next five years.

"We are connecting the truck with the internet – making him the mobile data center of the logistics network," he says.

"It connects all those involved in goods: drivers, schedulers, fleet operators, workshops, manufacturers and insurance companies or authorities.

"They receive information in real time which was previously unavailable: about the condition of the tractor unit and semitrailer, traffic and weather conditions, the parking availability at motorway service stations, rest areas and much more."

The Daimler chief says the investment will see future reductions in loading and unloading times, paper work and traffic jams, plus over the air technology updates will see automated service intervals and reduced maintenance time.

"Our trucks fully connect with their environment, becoming part of the internet and continuously sending and receiving information," he says.

"In this way we are considerably improving the performance of goods transport as a whole."

Citing "an enormous opportunity to intelligently cope with the growing volume of goods traffic," Bernhard says "we intend to use it."



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