If there’s one traditionally tech-crazy country that’s largely been absent on the autonomous vehicle front to date, it’s Japan. But all of that may be about to change.
Daimler Trucks detailed its current vehicle-to-vehicle communications (V2V) efforts in The Land of the Rising Sun, including joint operation with other manufacturers' trucks on public roads around greater Tokyo.
After testing the electronic connection of trucks (truck platooning) in Europe and the US, Daimler Trucks said it is now also operating test runs of truck platoons in Japan with its Asian brand Fuso. During these tests, a heavy-duty Fuso Super Great truck model operates electronically connected to other trucks in a semi-autonomous control mode to maintain a platoon with trucks of other Japanese commercial vehicle manufacturers. The test drives are taking place Jan. 23-Feb. 1 on Shin-Tomei Expressway southwest of Tokyo and on Kita-Kano Expressway, north of the Japanese capital.
The Japanese ministry of economy, trade and industry, along with the ministry of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, initiated the platooning test. The project is part of the Japanese government’s Future Strategy 2017, which aims to roll out innovations like the Internet of Things, big data and artificial intelligence across all industries. In the commercial vehicle sector, truck platooning will contribute to the reduction of fuel consumption and to lower CO2 emissions. In addition, truck platooning may help with Japan’s dramatic driver shortage issue.
Daimler Trucks has been doing pioneer work in autonomous, connected and electric driving with its truck brands Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner and Fuso. Throughout the globe, Daimler Trucks says it now has around 560,000 trucks to the Internet of Things, and says that is more than any other manufacturer.
For the digital connection of the Fuso Super Great during the platooning test, Daimler Trucks is combining the technological possibilities of connectivity with its experiences in the field of autonomous driving. The Wi-Fi-based V2V system interacts with driver-assistance systems, which are also used in Daimler-brands Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner. Some of those are Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Assist and Active Brake Assist 4.
In 2014, Daimler Trucks launched the truck-concept Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 with autonomous driving function. Its designated aim was to develop the autonomous driving technology for series production until 2025. The following year, Daimler introduced Highway Pilot in Germany. In 2016, Daimler took part in the Dutch government’s initiative European Truck Platooning Challenge with three electronically connected and semi-autonomous driving Mercedes-Benz Actros.
In the U.S., the Freightliner Inspiration Truck has been driving in a so-called pairing-configuration (two electronically connected trucks) on public roads in Nevada and Oregon, since 2017.
The Fuso Super Great is the first model of a Daimler-brand to drive in a platoon with other trucks in the key market Japan.
Martin Daum, who heads up Daimler AG's truck and bus operations, said, “Two years ago, we demonstrated with Mercedes-Benz trucks in Europe that platooning can be done and is highly advantageous. Right now, we keep developing the technology with Freightliner on public roads in the US. Japan is a key market for us that is on the lookout and promotes new technologies. We take part in the Japanese government’s initiative to push platooning further ahead in Asia and to remain in the lead in the development of this technology."