Daimler shifts gear to driver-truck interaction

The new Mercedes-Benz Actros enhances driver experience with a multimedia cockpit, mirror cam, predictive powertrain control, active drive assist, and active brake assist

Mercedes-Benz, Actros, Truck, Daimler, Mirror cam


The new Mercedes-Benz Actros, showcased at the IAA Commercial Vehicles 2018 expo and to be released in Q2 2019, takes a fresh look at all the possible interactions between the driver and vehicle. The new Euro 6 Actros comes with 17 cab variants and introduces several technologies for the first time both on a heavy-duty truck as well as on the Actros range. All new developments have been thought out from the driver’s perspective, particularly how the human-machine interface (HMI) has a major impact on driver performance.

The completely redesigned HMI on the new Actros is located in the multimedia cockpit in the driver’s cab. It includes two interactive 10-inch colour displays that serve as a central source of information in the driver’s digital workplace. The displays can be controlled using touch-pads integrated in the redesigned steering wheel. All switches, buttons and keys have been eliminated, and functions can be controlled via the displays.

The primary display is installed behind the steering wheel and replaces the conventional instrument cluster with its speedometer, rev counter and fuel gauge. This screen provides the driver with all basic information relevant to driving as well as a visualisation of all driver assistance systems. The central area of the display can be configured to suit individual requirements. The secondary display is a flat-screen monitor with touchscreen function.  Smartphones can be integrated via Apple CarPlayTM and Android Auto.

The redesigned HMI located in the multimedia cockpit in the driver’s cab includes two interactive displays that serve as a central source of information.

The new Actros will also be the first series production truck in the world to have mirror cam on-board, replacing the main mirrors and wide-angle mirrors. The mirror cam system has two small camera arms outside the vehicle and pointing toward the back of the truck. The images captured by the cameras are displayed on two 15-inch displays located on the A-pillars inside the driver’s cab.

The advantages of the mirror cam compared to a conventional mirror include improved all-round visibility without a mirror blocking the view; ease in driving backward and manoeuvring into a parking space; and digital guide lines provide additional orientation in different driving situations; for example, distance lines show an estimate of the traffic behind the truck. 

According to Mercedes-Benz, the omission of mirrors reduces fuel consumption as the compact digital cameras bring considerable aerodynamic advantages in addition to significant improvements in safety and vehicle handling. The air resistance of the mirror cam is much lower than with conventional mirrors.

Images captured by the mirror cam system - camera arms outside the vehicle - are displayed on two 15-inch displays located on the A-pillars inside the driver’s cab.

The fifth generation of the emergency braking assistant on board the Actros, the active brake assist 5, supports the driver when there is danger of a rear-end collision or a collision with person crossing, oncoming or walking in the truck’s lane, and also with an automatic full application of the brakes if necessary. The active brake assist 5 works with a combination of radar and a camera system. This allows it to monitor the space ahead of the vehicle and to react faster to people on the road.

With the new Actros, the world’s first assistance system for semi-automated driving (Level 2) is now entering series production: the active drive assist. The new active drive assist can brake, accelerate and steer independently. Unlike systems that only work at certain speeds, the active drive assist offers the driver partially automated driving in all speed ranges for the first time in a series-produced truck. New elements are the active latitudinal control and the combination of longitudinal and lateral control in all speed ranges through the fusion of radar and camera information. This supports the driver, particularly on monotonous long-distance routes and in tedious tailbacks. The active drive assist is not only able to accelerate and brake autonomously, but can also keep the vehicle on track and negotiate bends at both high and low speeds.

The active drive assist builds on the proximity control assist system with stop-and-go function, as well as on the lane keeping assist. The active drive assist brakes the truck if it gets too close to a vehicle driving in front and accelerates again until a set speed is reached. It also actively keeps the vehicle in lane. If the vehicle is leaving its lane unintentionally, the active drive assist intervenes and independently steers the vehicle back into its lane. The distance from the vehicle in front and the vehicle’s position in its lane can be adjusted in multiple stages using the driving assistance menu.

When steering independently in lane, active drive assist also uses the new Servotwin steering system which is electrohydraulically assisted. In situations where the vehicle is not being driven semi-automated, Servotwin supplements the steering torque applied by the driver with additional steering torque and thereby improves the driving comfort. Among other scenarios, this helps considerably when manoeuvring in tight spaces.

All assistance systems on the new Actros work hand in hand and assist each other. For example, the active drive assist always takes the parameters of the improved predictive powertrain control (PPC) system into consideration to ensure an efficient driving style. Beyond that, when detecting traffic in front, the active drive assist uses the same enhanced radar and camera technology as the new Active Brake Assist 5.

The fuel consumption of the new Actros is lower than that of its predecessor with savings of up to 3% on highways and up to 5% on country roads. This is partly made possible because it processes high-resolution digital road maps. This means that the PPC cruise control can also operate on winding inter-city roads and take roundabouts into consideration. Furthermore, the mirror cams and new rear-edge flaps provide aerodynamic improvements. To further reduce fuel consumption, Actros uses a new standard ratio for the weight-optimised rear axle. The gear ratio has been reduced from i = 2.533 previously to i = 2.412. With inclusion of the weight-optimised G211 transmission, the new gear ratio is now available for all new Actros models equipped with the second-generation, six-cylinder OM 471 in-line engine and 315/70 R 22.5 tyres.

Alexander Hosp, manager, product and marketing development, Mercedes-Benz Trucks, says: “The active brake assist 5 is an enhancement of the previous version. The new system responds faster to pedestrians with emergency braking activated at a speed of 90km/hr to reduce it to 0km/h, compared to the active brake assist 4 which enabled braking from 80km/h to 0km/h. This is a significant improvement because trucks in Europe are generally driven at speeds of 85–90km/h on highways. The lane keeping assist is always on, even if the drives switches off the active drive assist.”

“The new Actros has more than 60 new features, and its new systems provide data related to 21 additional parameters. All these advanced systems contribute to increased safety and comfort of drivers, their vehicles and environments and indirectly compensate for the shortage in number and skills of drivers in Europe,” adds Hosp. .

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