Driverless lorry in successful trial

12.00 | 6 October 2015 | | 3 comments

A driverless lorry developed by Daimler has been successfully tested on a public road for the first time, in Germany (BBC News).

The Freightliner Inspiration Truck became the world’s first series-production truck to operate on an ‘automated basis drive’.

Winfried Kretschmann, prime minister of the state of Baden-Württemberg, joined Daimler AG board member Dr Wolfgang Bernhard on the maiden journey on an autobahn between Denkendorf and Stuttgart airport.

The trial was deemed a success with the vehicle’s "highway pilot" helping it avoid other road users via a radar and camera sensing system while reaching speeds of up to 80km/h (50mph). The system identifies markings on the road as well as other vehicles and obstacles with a camera and radar mounted at the front of the lorry.

Dr Bernhard said: “The highway pilot brings more safety because it is never inattentive, it is never tired, it is always present 100%.

“No matter how well you accelerate, slow down or steer a truck you can never do it as good as the highway pilot can.”

Alan Stevens, of the UK-based Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), told BBC News: “I’m pleased that the trucks have proven safe enough to now undergo realistic road trials. Such trials are really the only way to understand the real economic and safety benefits.

“The behaviour of other drivers will be very interesting to see so I look forward to the result.”

Daimler AG has reiterated the requirement that a human driver must be present and focused on the road at all times, adding that it is fully committed to ‘developing solutions for the transport of tomorrow’.

Its website states: “The growing transport volume has an enormous influence on changes in the world of traffic. As a pioneer in the automotive industry Daimler is taking responsibility.

“Long-distance transport trucks in particular are predestined for autonomous driving. It enables a considerable increase in the efficiency of the transport sector. Increasing road safety and cutting fuel consumption are hugely important aspects in particular in long-distance transport.”


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    I’d be interested to see how a driverless truck would cope with some of the reversing manoeuvres I have witnessed truck drivers perform.

    When driving I try as much as I can to stay well away from large vehicles, but I will trust driverless trucks even less. I do hope that driverless trucks will be easily identified by signage. My experience with computers is that they are not 100% reliable, so a driver will still have to be on board to cope with system failures.

    I note that Dr Bernhard is so confident that he conducts his trial on a stretch of autobahn, where to be honest there is no great skill involved in driving a truck. Perhaps he can back to us when his truck has safely negotiated Central London during a dark, rainy, rush-hour.

    David, Suffolk
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    I’d be interested to know what distance from the vehicle in front, the ‘highway pilot’ considers appropriate in different circumstances.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Interesting to note that a driver must be present and focused on the road at all times. So who is obsolete – the driver, or the computer?

    Derek Reynolds, Salop.
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