The Lockwood Report

March 23, 2016 Vol. 13 No. 6 

Daimler Trucks has taken its leading-edge status one rather large step forward with the introduction of the Highway Pilot Connect platooning system.

In a demonstration in Dusseldorf, Germany on Monday, three semi-autonomous Mercedes-Benz Actros tractors pulled their trailers down the A52 autobahn in a platoon formation — 15 meters or 49 ft apart — and eventually into the massive hall where some 300 journalists had been assembled for the occasion.

It’s a world first, of course. We’ve seen platooning demonstrations before, going back several decades in fact, but never with semi-autonomous trucks.

Highway Pilot Connect is based on the existing Highway Pilot system that Daimler  showed off in 2014 with its Future Truck 2025 program, the first semi-autonomous heavy truck to hit the road. That was dramatic but it was on a closed German highway. It was followed last May with the introduction by Daimler Trucks North America of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck which travelled down some very public roads in Nevada. And it was licensed to do so, also a world first.

The Highway Pilot is now approved for use on public roads throughout Germany, while Highway Pilot Connect is approved for platoon driving within the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, for the complete A81 autobahn from Lake Constance to Würzburg. Only the greater Stuttgart area is excluded. Daimler has received an additional approval for the A52 in the greater Düsseldorf area. Further demonstration and test drives are possible with individually granted permissions.


The company started down the connectivity road 30 years ago when the European Prometheus research project first developed and tested platooning on public roads and laid the foundations for today’s fully networked vehicle. If I remember correctly, Renault and Scania were also involved in that effort.