I’m writing today from Berlin, where I’ve spent the last few days exploring, writing and yes, I’ll admit, doing a little bit of relaxing. I arrived here Monday June 30 to take in a technology demonstration from Daimler, which turned out to be quite amazing. Today, it’s off to Aachen, Germany for a demonstration and press event from ZF, so I saw little point in returning home for the weekend.

But enough about my European wanderings, let’s get right into the big news, which no doubt this week will be the demonstration by Daimler of self-driving trucks. And I’m going to do something unusual this time out and dedicate most of Hooked Up to the subject, since it’s been at the forefront of my mind since seeing them in action. (Even the Twitter section will be dedicated to reaction). These are not to be confused with ‘driverless’ trucks, since there is always a driver present when operating the so-called autonomous trucks Daimler showcased here last week.

A driver performs other duties while Daimler's autonomous truck guides him down the road.
A driver performs other duties while Daimler’s autonomous truck guides him down the road.

The controls of these autonomous trucks can be taken over by the driver at any moment, and in fact, a driver is required to perform certain maneuvers such as overtaking other vehicles. But it’s what these trucks can do that’s truly amazing. For example, would you believe they can identify a disabled vehicle on the shoulder and edge to the extreme left of its lane to give the vehicle as much space as possible? Or that it can detect a rapidly approaching emergency vehicle and signal right before pulling onto the shoulder?

When the Highway Pilot system is active, the driver can even rotate his seat 45 degrees, recline back and work on his computer to do invoicing or load planning or even use an integrated tablet to book a parking spot or make restaurant reservations. The truck as shown, can handle about 50% of the driving without human intervention, including the more monotonous aspects such as stop-and-go traffic.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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