We thought that it will take a few years more until we see the first autonomous cars, but Daimler is ready to offer us an early future with the introduction of the worlds first autonomous truck: the Freightliner Inspiration Truck. The futuristic truck is based on the series-produced US Freightliner Cascadia model, but with the addition of the Highway Pilot technology.
The latter comprises a front radar and a stereo camera plus tried and tested assistance systems such as the Adaptive Cruise Control, as seen in the standard Freightliner Cascadia models and the Mercedes-Benz Actros. For licensing on public roads in Nevada, the technology was further developed and the interaction of components extensively tested. As part of the truck´s so-called Marathon Run, the Freightliner Inspiration Truck covered over 10,000 miles (over 16,000 kilometers) on a test circuit in Papenburg, Germany.
As soon as the Freightliner Inspiration Truck is safely on the highway, the driver can activate the Highway Pilot system. The driver receives a visual prompt in the instrument cluster to activate the "Highway Pilot." The vehicle switches to autonomous mode and adapts to the speed of traffic. The driver receives a confirmation message in the instrument cluster, "Highway Pilot active."
The new radar technology installed ensures the truck automatically complies with posted speed limits, regulates the distance from the vehicle ahead or uses the stop-and-go function during rush hour. The Highway Pilot system does not initiate autonomous passing maneuvers. These have to be executed by the driver. The same is true for leaving the highway and changing lanes.
The driver can deactivate the Highway Pilot manually and is able to override the system at any time. If the vehicle is no longer able to process crucial aspects of its environment, due to road construction or bad weather, the driver is prompted to retake control. In addition to a visual prompt in the instrument cluster there is also a subsequent audible notification.