Mercedes-Benz’s New Actros Truck Flaunts Autonomous Technology

September 18, 2018 by Jerry Hirsch, @Jerryhirsch

Foreshadowing expected improvements to its Freightliner Cascadia heavy-duty truck, Daimler Trucks unveiled massive updates to the Mercedes-Benz Actros model, its flagship European truck.

The Actros jumps past offerings from rivals by including a wide range of features that amount to what is known in the industry as Level 2 automated driving.

The German automaker introduced the new Actros 1846 LS at a private event at the start of this week’s IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Hanover, Germany.

The semi-automated driving tech built into the truck can autonomously navigate straight roads and slight curves as well as heavy and stop-and-go traffic on the motorway.

In addition to adaptive cruise control, which keeps pace with traffic and automatic emergency braking, the new truck has automated lane keeping. It reads road markings and warns the driver when the vehicle drifts from the lane. It will steer it back on course if the driver doesn’t take corrective action.

The system also will brake automatically for pedestrians crossing in front, walking towards it or in the same lane. It will come to a full stop and works at speeds of up to about 30 mph.

“It also stops for pedestrians who might have their eyes focused on their smart phones and become paralyzed when confronted by an approaching vehicle,” said Stefan Buchner, head of Mercedes-Benz Trucks.

But drivers are still expected to keep their hands on the vehicle’s steering wheel and stay alert, Daimler officials said.

The new Actros, which will be delivered to the first customers starting April, also has a side guard assist to prevent drivers from running down bicyclists and pedestrians travelling straight along the road way during right turns. Sensors alert the driver to any objects on the truck’s right side, but it doesn’t automatically brake.

The company is working on making the side guard assist system active, Ingo Scherhaufer, a Daimler safety system engineer, told Trucks.com.

The new vehicle also features a completely digital cockpit based on two large screens. Knobs, dials and buttons to control functions such as cabin temperature, lights, music and other features are absent. Instead touch screens display smart phone-type icons.

“Dealing with a truck is becoming as easy as using a smart phone,” Buchner said. “The new Actros brings innovations to series production which previously we only showed on our concept vehicles.”

The Actros is not sold in the U.S. but Daimler officials indicated that many of the same features will appear on a Cascadia update expected to be unveiled next year. The Cascadia had about 38 percent of the U.S. market for trucks in the heaviest Class 8 weight segment in 2017, according to Statista, a market research firm. That is more than double the 16 percent held by Peterbilt, the next largest brand.

There is one feature on the new Actros that likely won’t become part of the Cascadia. The German truck does not have the large side view mirrors of heavy-duty trucks. They are replaced by a camera system that provides the driver with a view of the lanes on each side of the truck on two 15-inch displays on the A-pillars inside the cab.

  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz Actros.  (All photos: Daimler)
European regulations allow trucks that replace mirrors with cameras. U.S. regulations only allow such a system under a special exemption.

The MirrorCam, combined with aerodynamic improvements made to the truck, provide fuel savings of 3 percent to 5 percent, depending on the roads and driving conditions, according to Daimler.

“We are introducing the truck of the future,” Buchner said, “the most modern truck in the world.”

Editor’s note: all photos courtesy of Daimler. 

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