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Daimler Is At Work on Self-Driving Truck

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[Prototype of Daimler's self-driving-truck]

In this Daimler photo, a driver looks at his tablet instead of driving as the self-driving truck prototype does the driving.

Move over, self-driving cars of the future; Daimler has been working on a self-driving truck. The “Future Truck 2025” will be able to drive itself via four radar sensors and a stereo camera, writes Dorothee Tschampa for Bloomberg Businessweek.

The self-driving system, which borrows technology already available in Daimler’s new Mercedes-Benz S-Class luxury sedan, uses data from current traffic, road conditions, and topography, Tschampa writes. The truck’s driver can take control at any time, she notes, overriding the vehicle’s “Highway Pilot.” A Daimler press release says the truck will be able to go as fast as 85 kilometers per hour (52.8 mph).

Daimler recently demonstrated a prototype based on one of the company’s Actros trucks, which drove itself for 45 minutes on a stretch of superhighway (part of Germany’s A14 Autobahn that is currently being built near Magdeburg) while the man behind the wheel either crossed his arms, waved, or used a tablet computer, Tschampa reports. Daimler is still working on getting the truck to be able to change lanes and pass other vehicles, she adds.

Tschampa quotes Wolfgang Bernhard, head of the Daimler Trucks division:

Daimler will be ready to introduce the system in Europe and the U.S. once legal frameworks have been adapted to allow drivers to keep their hands off the wheel for longer periods of time.

Bernhard declined to comment on a possible price for the Highway Pilot technology because it won’t be on the market for another 10 years.

Karia Sanchez writes for Motor Trend that Daimler seeks to be the top manufacturer in self-driving big rigs, as trucks provide 75% of all freight transportation in Europe. Daimler said self-driving trucks would allow the drivers to sit back in their truck seats and work on administrative tasks that otherwise have been done by office workers, Sanchez writes. Bernhard said the Highway Pilot system might also help reduce downtime for repairs, lower insurance premiums, and extend the amount of time a trucker can drive between breaks, Tschampa reports.

As this blog has written, U.S. laws regulating truck driver rest have been in the news recently. Last month a truck driver who reportedly had been driving without sleep for more than 24 hours crashed into several vehicles, killing one person and critically injuring several others, including actor Tracy Morgan.

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