Daimler to open automated truck research center

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Daimler Trucks demonstrated an autonomous truck in 2015, and says such tech has a future in helping address the growing shortage of longhaul drivers. Just not for awhile.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Daimler Trucks will create an Automated Truck Research and Development Center at its North American headquarters in Portland, Ore. – focusing on automated driving technology and its effect on society and customers alike.

The new center builds on the company’s established research and development presence, and will be at Swan Island, where a full-scale truck wind tunnel can already be found. The High Desert Proving Grounds are also nearby in Madras, Ore.

North American engineers will tap into company resources from other Daimler locations in Stuttgart, Germany and Bangalore, India, leveraging experience from other divisions including work on passenger cars, Daimler Trucks says. Research and development on automated trucks will also be expanded in Germany.

The new center is part of Daimler plans to invest more than $3.8 billion (CDN) in research and development during 2018 and 2019, and $758 billion earmarked for e-mobility, connectivity and automated commercial vehicle technology.

“This center of excellence is part of our global innovation network and supports the Daimler Trucks ethos of rigorously testing new technologies, ensuring systems are developed safely and functionality is fully validated before it is released to customers,” said Sven Ennerst, head of truck product engineering, global procurement, and Daimler Trucks China.

While Daimler Trucks says it doesn’t expect series-produced driverless trucks in the near future, it sees the technology as an eventual way to help keep up with freight demands and a dropping number of longhaul drivers.

The center will focus on all aspects of development, testing and validation around software, sensors, machine learning, and simulation, as well as adapting base vehicle platforms.

“We are again aiming for a fully integrated, proven Daimler solution that will provide the best tool for our customers’ needs,” said Roger Nielsen, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America. “We can accomplish this with a combination of vehicle road testing over millions of miles around the globe and advanced simulation. The global collaboration that takes place among research and development teams at Daimler extends to vans, buses and passenger cars, and each advancement is a building block for the future of automated vehicles.”

The announcement builds on several innovations around autonomous vehicles. The Freightliner Inspiration Truck was the first autonomous commercial truck to drive a U.S. public highway, during demonstrations in 2015. Today’s Detroit Assurance 4.0 safety systems, meanwhile, are expected to be the foundation for increasingly automated applications.

The company has also demonstrated platooning – electronically paired trucks that tightly follow each other in the name of improving aerodynamics. Using tools such as radar and camera sensors, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems braking, trucks are kept in the center of their lanes, while vehicles to the rear respond in less than 3/10 second to braking by the lead truck.


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John G. Smith is Newcom Media's vice-president - editorial, and the editorial director of its trucking publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, and Transport Routier. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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