All That's Trucking

Rolling Along Toward Autonomous Trucks

August 31, 2015

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A disguised version of the Future Truck 2025 in a demonstration last year on a closed portion of German autobahn. Photo courtesy Daimler Trucks.
A disguised version of the Future Truck 2025 in a demonstration last year on a closed portion of German autobahn. Photo courtesy Daimler Trucks.

A couple of news items from the past week indicate that progress is being made on the road to autonomous commercial trucks.

Government officials in Germany have given the OK for Daimler Trucks to test out its autonomous trucks in highways in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, where Daimler's Stuttgardt headquarters is located, according to reports in ZDNet and DW.com.

"The German government appears eager to promote the development these technologies, and earlier this year, the federal Ministry of Transport designated a section of the autobahn in Bavaria to be digitised so that new connected and self-driving vehicles can be tested in real traffic," reports ZDNet.

According to DW.com (which used a photo of a North American version of Daimler's autonomous technology, not the European one), State Transport Minister Winfried Hermann pointed to studies suggesting that driver assistance systems like those used by Daimler could help drastically reduce the risk of accidents on German roads.

The company first showed off its Future Truck 2025 at the International Commercial Vehicle Show (IAA) in Germany last year. This year, the Freightliner Inspiration Truck made its debut in North America using many of the same technologies.

Both of these technologies require a driver to be on board. But completely autonomous medium-duty Freightliner trucks are scheduled to be on Florida roads by the end of the year.

The trucks, from Pennsylvania-based Royal Truck and Equipment, can navigate by following a pre-programmed lead car, via remote control, or by using GPS Waypoint navigation, according to Popular Science. These are automated Truck Mounted Attenuator trucks, or TMAs. These trucks protect workers in construction zones by working as a barrier to oncoming traffic, with arrows on the back, directing traffic into the adjacent lane. However, the driver of TMA trucks is still at risk if a vehicle crashes into it. The autonomous technology shifts the driving to a vehicle in front of the TMA truck.

Two of the autonomous trucks will be deployed in Florida as part of a demonstration program under the state Department of Transportation. The automation systems are from Florida-based Micro Systems Inc., which supplies unmanned vehicles to the military. Check out the video below:

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Deborah Lockridge

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All That's Trucking blog is just that – the editor's take on anything and everything related to trucking, with the help of guest posts from other HDT editors. Author Deborah Lockridge's career as an award-winning trucking journalist started in 1990.

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