Daimler has trialled three autonomous Mercedes-Benz lorries on public roads from Germany to the Netherlands in an attempt to promote platooning.
The lorries, all Mercedes-Benz Actros, were fitted with Daimler’s Highway Pilot Connect system, which pairs the trucks together using vehicle-to-vehicle technology. This allows the leading truck to deliver a continuous stream of information to the other vehicles through a wi-fi connection.
An array of cameras and sensors allow the trucks to avoid obstacles in the road and even perform an emergency stop. Daimler claims that these systems reduce the reaction time to less than one tenth of a second, down from 1.4 seconds for a human driver.
At least two lorries are needed to start the autonomous platoon, with the first truck in the queue dictating the speed. Unlike lorries driven by a human, which are required to drive at least 50m apart, Daimler says its autonomous lorries can safely run with just 15m between them.
The test was backed by the Dutch government, which has recently shown support for the banning of petrol and diesel powered vehicles.
Last month, the UK’s chancellor George Osborne outlined plans to trial fully autonomous vehicles on UK roads by 2017, with the Department of Transport saying that autonomous lorries will be tested on UK roads later this year. It is not yet known if Daimler’s vehicles will make it to the UK during their development.