Daimler Trucks has announced that it is establishing the Autonomous Technology Group as a global organization for automated driving, bringing together its worldwide expertise and activities. The main tasks of the new unit comprise overall strategy and implementation of the automated driving roadmap, including research and development as well as setting up the required operations infrastructure and network, heading towards the series production of highly automated trucks (SAE level 4).
The newly established Autonomous Technology Group is part of Daimler Trucks’ global effort to put highly automated trucks onto the roads within a decade. To achieve this, Daimler Trucks announced an investment of more than EUR 500 million (more than USD 570 million) at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. In commercial trucking, level 4 is the logical next step after level 2 to increase safety as well as efficiency and productivity.
Martin Daum, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Trucks and Buses stated: “We are the pioneer for automated trucks. With the formation of our global Autonomous Technology Group, we are taking the next step, underscoring the importance of highly automated driving for Daimler Trucks, the industry and society as well. With the new unit, we will maximize the effectiveness of our automated driving efforts and the impact of our investments in this key strategic technology. We will therefore be in the perfect position to put highly automated driving onto the roads, making transportation safer, saving lives and helping trucking companies boost their productivity.”
Peter Vaughan Schmidt, who is currently Head of Strategy Daimler Trucks, will lead this new, global and cross-divisional organization. Schmidt has 15 years of experience in the industry and in his previous position he has been responsible for the development of Daimler Trucks’ strategy on automated vehicles. He commented: “With the Autonomous Technology Group, we are bringing together our global experts and their vast knowledge in automated trucking. In the first stage, we will focus on use cases of highly automated driving in defined areas and between defined hubs in the U.S.A. In doing so, we will work closely together with customers whose business matches this automated driving application. We will not only develop the respective technology but also set up the required operations infrastructure and network.”
Roger Nielsen, CEO of Daimler Trucks North America LLC (DTNA), said: “We at DTNA are excited to have our automated driving efforts backed by the Autonomous Technology Group. This new global organization will enable us to even stronger evolve the technology for highly automated driving and vehicle integration for heavy-duty trucks at our Automated Truck Research & Development Center in Portland. We’re fully committed to demonstrating the enormous advantages of highly automated driving first here in the U.S.A.”
Software development for highly automated driving will be one of the key activities of the Autonomous Technology Group. Another one will be the so-called vehicle project: On the one hand, the vehicle project will be responsible for the redundancy in the chassis enabling the vehicle’s systems to take over roles of a professional driver while on the road, providing the highest safety. On the other hand, the vehicle project will take care of the automated driving sensor kit integration (camera, lidar, radar), which – together with a very accurate map – is responsible for ensuring that the highly automated truck finds its own way on the road. The operations infrastructure and network to be set up by the Autonomous Technology Group – another key activity – will consist of one main vehicle control center as well as additional stations at logistics hubs.
The Autonomous Technology Group has a global reach with experts working in various locations throughout the company’s worldwide development network, i.e. in Portland and Blacksburg (U.S.A.) and Stuttgart (Germany). More locations will follow as the test fleet is built up and deployed. The Blacksburg-based company Torc Robotics will be part of the newly established Autonomous Technology Group, pending the authorities’ approval of the acquisition recently announced by Daimler Trucks. Both companies complement each other perfectly, with Torc’s expertise in agile software development and Daimler Trucks’ experience in delivering reliable and safe truck hardware. Torc Robotics will remain a separate entity and retain its name, team, existing customers and facilities in Blacksburg. In addition, the founders of Torc Robotics will continue to be part of the company’s management team.
Daimler Trucks will continue to work very closely on automated vehicle technology across Daimler, including joint activities with passenger cars, for leveraging synergies. At the same time, truck specifications require own development activities due to the entirely different nature of the system (one-box vs. articulated) and focus on highway goods transportation vs. inner-city passenger transportation.
In 2014, Daimler Trucks presented the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025, the world’s first automated truck, and was the first to demonstrate the technological opportunities and great potential that automated trucks offer the economy and society. In 2015, Daimler’s Freightliner Inspiration Truck obtained the first-ever road license for a partially automated commercial vehicle, and in the same year, the world premiere of the Mercedes-Benz Actros with Highway Pilot took place on public roads.
With Active Drive Assist (Mercedes-Benz Actros, FUSO Super Great) and Detroit Assurance 5.0 with Active Lane Assist (Freightliner Cascadia), Daimler Trucks is the first manufacturer to put partially automated driving features (SAE level 2) into series production. The new system can independently brake, accelerate and steer. Unlike systems that only work above a certain speed, Active Drive Assist / Detroit Assurance 5.0 make partially automated driving possible for the driver in all speed ranges, also another first in a series-production truck. This active lateral and longitudinal assistance package features a new state-of-the art radar and camera fusion system.