Daimler Trucks is pooling its autonomous trucking efforts into a global group to put highly automated trucks on U.S. roads within a decade.
The world’s largest manufacturer of heavy-duty trucks is focused on trucks that can operate without a human driver. The truck company plans to showcase a Level 4 autonomous truck this year. Daimler is targeting regular production for the late 2020s.
Startup companies like Embark and TuSimple are testing freight hauling on interstates in the southwest U.S. Another company, Embark, hauls refrigerators from El Paso, Texas, to Los Angeles. TuSimple has several freight customers and a pilot program with the U.S. Postal Service to take mail from a distribution center in Phoenix to Dallas. Embark and TuSimple use safety drivers to take over if the automated systems fail.
$570 MILLION INVESTMENT
Daimler is investing $570 million to get ready for advanced automation. Its recent purchase of software maker Torc Robotics is pending. Torc will be part of the Autonomous Technology Group. Peter Vaughan Schmidt, the current head of strategy for Daimler Trucks, will lead the group.
Daimler’s Level 4 truck will have redundant systems throughout the chassis to assume the role of human drivers. Daimler’s Detroit technology division created a partially automated system for the 2020 Freightliner Cascadia. That system allows drivers to operate hands- and feet-free in many situations as long as they pay attention.
Schmidt will lead a cross-divisional group reporting to Martin Daum, who is responsible for Daimler AG trucks and buses. The initial work will focus on picking the best locations for a hub-to-hub autonomous trucking network, Schmidt said.
“Given the engineering and development resources, it makes sense to have a coordinated effort,” said Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst with Navigant Research. Daimler can pull from its Freightliner, Mitsubishi Fuso, Western Star and Thomas Built Buses brands, he said.
Daimler Trucks is coordinating technology development with its Mercedes-Benz sister division even though autonomous systems for trucks and cars are very different.
“With the new unit, we will maximize the effectiveness of our automated driving efforts and the impact of our investments,” Daum said.