Daimler to invest over $500 million to introduce SAE level 4 automated trucks within a decade

Daimler showcased the new Freightliner Cascadia at the CES expo, with partially automated (level 2) driving features

Automated driving, Level 4, Daimler, Freightliner Cascadia
Daimler AG

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Daimler Trucks will invest around $570 million over the next years and create more than 200 new jobs in its global push to bring highly automated trucks (SAE level 4) to the road within a decade. Highly automated driving is characterized as automated travel in defined areas and between defined hubs without any expectation of the system that a user will respond to a request to intervene. In commercial trucking, level 4 is the natural next step after level 2, increasing efficiency and productivity for customers, cutting costs per mile significantly. In doing so, Daimler Trucks is skipping the intermediate step of conditionally automated driving (level 3). Level 3 automated driving does not offer truck customers a substantial advantage compared to the current situation as there are no corresponding benefits to compensate for the technology costs.

Highly automated trucks (level 4) offer enormous advantages in many areas. They enhance safety in traffic thanks to a redundancy of systems and a multitude of sensors and systems that never get tired or lose attention – because today, a great majority of accidents are still due to human error. Level 4 highly automated trucks also improve efficiency and productivity, among other things, through higher utilization of the vehicles – practically around the clock. They also make it possible to travel during light traffic times, for example at night, and thus avoid traffic jams by intelligent route management. This has positive effects for truck customers and for the entire economy: the competitiveness of an economy is strongly correlated with the efficiency of logistics. This aspect becomes more and more relevant as global road freight volume is expected to more than double between 2015 and 2050.

Currently, the new Freightliner Cascadia offers partially automated driving features (level 2), making it the first-ever partially automated series production truck on North American roads.

Martin Daum, member of the board of management, Daimler AG with responsibility for Daimler Trucks & Buses, said: “In 2015, our Freightliner Inspiration Truck got the first road license ever for an automated commercial vehicle. Now we take automated trucking to the next level: we’re ready to launch the first partially automated new Freightliner Cascadia in 2019 – and next, we tackle highly automated trucks. Highly automated trucks will improve safety, boost the performance of logistics and offer a great value proposition to our customers – and thus contribute considerably to a sustainable future of transportation.”

A crucial success factor for the development of a safe and reliable level 4 highly automated truck is a closely coordinated system of engineering and technology development. Two sensors are currently in use at level 2. In the next development step at level 4, there will be significantly more, all also higher performing. This leads to a completely new level of data volume but also places extremely high demands on the quality of data processing. The goal: the driver's perception is recreated by the holistic recording of the traffic and vehicle situation by different sensor technologies. With their specific strengths, each sensor makes a contribution to the overall performance and safety. Three different technological approaches form the basis: radar, camera and lidar.

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