ATLANTA — For the first time in North America, Daimler Trucks showcased its entire lineup of commercial vehicles, from mid-sized vans to school buses to Class 8 long-haul tractors at a press event kicking off the opening day of the North American Commercial Vehicle Show (NACV) in Atlanta today.
The collection of vehicles, highlighted with a concept model of a next-generation Sprinter van, was a clear indication that Daimler views the future of logistics as coordinated, data-driven chain dependent on the efficient deployment of all sorts of vehicles with different sizes, shapes, and capabilities.
During the press briefing, Roger Nielsen, president and chief executive officer of Daimler’s North American Truck business division also noted that the company has been testing advanced platooning systems on public roads in both Oregon (near Portland, where the company’s North American headquarters is located) and in Nevada, which was an early adopter of autonomous vehicle regulations in 2014. The tests are based largely on the Detroit Assurance suite of active vehicle safety systems, Nielsen said, which enable coordinated vehicle movement at close following distances in platooning applications to take advantage of increased fuel efficiency brought enabled by shared aerodynamic efficiencies.
Nielsen noted that Daimler engineers have been testing platooning systems on test tracks and select U.S. highways, demonstrating how the new technology can improve fuel efficiency, driver productivity, convenience, and safety.
The first step of platooning is called “pairing,” where two trucks travel in tandem at distances closer than what is possible under manual operation. A team of engineers is testing the system in trucks under controlled circumstances in both Oregon and Nevada highways, driving in cooperation with officials in those states.
In addition to road testing, Nielsen revealed that DTNA is conducting coordinated braking tests on a closed track at the company’s High Desert Proving Grounds in Madras, Ore. in preparation for a fleet trial early next year.
“Platooning holds the potential to offer significant fuel economy advantages, while assisting drivers,” said Roger Nielsen, president and CEO, DTNA, who has driven the new Cascadia under platooning conditions using this technology. “To be sure, the platooning technology is not meant to replace drivers – it’s designed to help drivers.”
“If we can help relieve drivers while they are on highways, they will likely become less fatigued,” continued Nielsen. “That can reduce the risk of crashes and make the driving experience more comfortable. Commercial development of platooning will depend on several factors, including government regulations,” Nielsen said. “The bottom line: we see a growing number of customers interested in platooning. When America is ready for platooning, we will have a proven solution.”