With all the commotion that Google has been bringing about its driverless car technology, it’s not a wonder that many other international companies are jumping into the Self-Driving bandwagon. One such corporation is Mercedes-Benz, led by its mother company, Daimler AG. They have recently finished test driving a Mercedes Actros big rig on a busy German highway – without the need for a human driver!
The big rig Mercedes Actros was driven via Highway Pilot for about 23 kilometers from the cities of Denkendorf and Stuttgart. Highway Pilot is the driverless system that uses radars and cameras to monitor the road and automatically lead the vehicle. It can also control cockpit temperature, check for road obstructions ahead, as well as control cruising speed. Daimler AG director Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard and Winfried Kretschmann, minister of German state Baden-Wurttemberg, were the first passengers to ride the Self-Driving truck.
What are the benefits of implementing self-driving vehicles like trucks? According to Daimler, this new technology does not necessarily mean that human drivers will be phased out and replaced by robotic cars. The human component of judgment and decision making is still important. The driver should still stay in the cockpit and monitor the weather and traffic whilst the vehicle is being automatically steered. He or she can decide to manually override the Highway Pilot and steer the big rig. The good thing about driverless tech is that it can reduce the strain and stress on a human driver, especially if he or she gets tired after long hours on the highway.
Another benefit of driverless technology is that it can greatly reduce traffic problems, as vehicles are equipped to make smarter route changes, and ultimately avoid causing delays on the road. Daimler also mentions that road safety can greatly improve, as fewer accidents are bound to happen if cars are driving via a smart system. If implemented totally, self-driving vehicles will also have a positive impact on the environment, possibly reducing the vehicle’s CO2 emissions as driving speeds are carefully controlled by computer.
Currently, the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, through Minister Kretschmann, will be working on passing legislation to safely implement driverless tech research and testing on German roads. The only way that the Highway Pilot can become a success is that if the nation accepts its benefits and is open to the change it can bring.