Daimler displays safety-first philosophy in launch

Digital displays offer next-generation information in the Actros cab.

HANNOVER, Germany – Safety is the name of the game, and Daimler has clearly raised that game with an array of new features unveiled during the IAA truck show.

The latest generation of Europe’s cabover Actros tractor includes no fewer than 60 new features, four of which have made world premiers. But in a launch event branded as “transforming transportation”, the focuses on visibility, pedestrian detection, and automated braking took center stage.

Active Brake Assist 5, for example, offers driving support at speeds up to 50 km/h – using a radar-based system that detects pedestrians more than a meter tall. After the system warns a driver about the person ahead of the truck, it will fully apply the brakes automatically. Earlier generations of such collision-mitigation systems have only been able to detect objects like vehicles, or offered just partial braking.

Active Drive Assist, meanwhile, combines active longitudinal and lateral controls at all speeds, using cameras and radar to read the area ahead of the truck, intervening with steering support to help keep an equipped vehicle in its lane. It builds on the existing Proximity Control Assist system with stop-and-go functions, as well as Lane Keeping Assist. If the truck gets too close to another vehicle, the brakes are applied. When the vehicle ahead begins to speed up, the truck accelerates back to a predetermined speed.

Meanwhile, pedestrians or cyclists too close to the right side of a vehicle are better protected through Sideguard Assist with Pedestrian Detection, offering the truck driver a combination of visual and acoustic warnings. It’s something that will be particularly handy when making right turns in urban areas.

MirrorCam replaces traditional West Coast mirrors with monitors mounted on the A pillar.

Visibility has also been enhanced with a new MirrorCam system that displays images on two large vertical screens mounted on the A pillars, largely eliminating some of the traditional blind spots associated with traditional West Coast mirrors.

It’s more than a simple camera image, however. A series of lines that overlay the video image help drivers to better determine distances. When reversing, the upper display shows the area close to the vehicle, while the lower display shows the area further away. A driver-initiated setting will keep the back of the trailer in the center of the screen as the truck backs around a corner. And the display will even show warnings from a Sideguard Assist system.

An added advantage to using a camera-based system is improved aerodynamics, playing a role in helping the latest generation of the Actros to improve fuel economy by a reported 3% on the highway and 5% in urban settings.

The new Actros with an L cab or above comes standard with the MirrorCam system instead of a conventional mirror. North American regulations still require traditional mirrors, though.

But the broader story comes from more than any single system. In many cases, the new capabilities overlap and strengthen each other. Active Drive Assist, for example, draws data from the latest generation of Daimler’s Predictive Powertrain Control, and uses the same radar and camera-based technologies as Active Brake Assist 5.

Updates are not limited to safety systems alone, either. New multimedia displays in the cab also replace traditional switches and buttons, with the new Actros featuring two centrally located color displays. The conventional instrument cluster with speedometer, tachometer and fuel gauge now appears on a flat screen. The secondary display is a touchscreen to offer controls, with added functionality offered through the networked Multimedia Cockpit.

Other Actros features announced today include:

  • Predictive Powertrain Control, a cruise control system that recognizes junctions and roundabouts.
  • A refined Uptime service, with real-time monitoring of all key vehicle functions, including the ability to control trailer functions. This year, Service 24h will offer real-time breakdown monitoring and repair status.
  • The Fleetboard Cockpit, which includes a communication platform for truck drivers known as the Fleetboard Driver App, and a service that reports anomalies between fuel consumption and refueling data for Fleetboard Fuel loss.

“We deliver innovation and progress because there’s always a better, stronger, simpler way to do it,” a video proclaimed. “We’ve been transforming transportation since 1896 and we’ll continue doing so to keep the world moving.”

“We know what’s possible with technology,” Daimler Trucks and Buses CEO Martin Daum said, challenging those who might suggest the company is slow to introduce new technologies to the market. “We don’t promise. We deliver.”

The question now is how long it will be before such technological advancements appear in Freightliner’s New Cascadia. The global manufacturer often adopts many of its innovations on both sides of the Atlantic.



John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Inside Logistics, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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