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Daimler Trucks Outlines Vision for Electric Vehicles, Platooning, Connectivity


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Transport Topics  /  September 25, 2017

ATLANTA — Daimler Trucks North America outlined its vision for electric trucks and platooning and showcased its latest advances in active safety and connectivity in the first press conference held by a truck manufacturer here at the inaugural North American Commercial Vehicle Show.

DTNA has been testing a truck platooning system on public roads and plans to begin fleet testing in early 2018 as a precursor to a commercial launch by the end of this decade, CEO Roger Nielsen said.

“We see growing customer interest in platooning,” he said at the Sept. 25 press conference. “When America is ready for platooning, DTNA will have a proven, viable solution ready for our customers.”

Meanwhile, Daimler subsidiary Mitsubishi Fuso highlighted the recent launch of its fully electric eCanter Class 4 cabover, which the company will roll out to select customers, including UPS Inc., by year’s end.

That product introduction could help pave the way for electric powered heavy-duty trucks.

At an off-site event the previous night at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre, the CEO of Daimler’s global truck and bus business, Martin Daum, said the company is working to develop electric trucks for greater distances and larger loads, but acknowledged that there are “still a lot of hurdles we have to overcome until that technology is feasible.”

For longhaul electric trucks, key considerations include vehicle range, charging time, payload, battery durability and the residual value of the trucks for second and third owners, he said.

“I can’t wait to add a big ‘E’ on the front of the Cascadia and Western Star,” Daum said, with a screen highlighting a mock “CascadiaE” logo as his backdrop.

On the NACV show floor, DTNA showcased its full family of brands, from Freightliner and Western Star heavy-duty trucks to Thomas Built school buses and Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner vans.

Nielsen revealed more details on DTNA’s platooning plans in an interview with Transport Topics.

The truck maker’s proprietary platooning system will pair two trucks from the same fleet to boost fuel economy through improved aerodynamics. It will reduce the rear truck’s following distance to 40-50 feet at highway speeds by synchronizing adaptive cruise control and braking through vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

DTNA’s platooning system also will include active steering capabilities.

“What we’ve learned in our testing is we need a third thing: The second truck has to keep itself between the lane markers without the driver’s interaction,” Nielsen told TT. “The second truck has to have active lane keeping.”

Daum also addressed the industry’s path toward automated driving.

“It’s a long way until we see the driverless truck,” he said, but some of that technology is already here in the form of driver-assistance systems.

DTNA is preparing to introduce the latest version of its proprietary active safety technology, Detroit Assurance 4.0, which adds warnings and partial braking when it detects pedestrians, as well as braking to a full stop on stationary objects and blind spot monitoring.

By the end of the decade, a future version of that active-safety platform will introduce lane-keeping assistance with active steering, Nielsen said.

Meanwhile, DTNA continues to expand its connected-vehicle capabilities.

“We have trucks all over the world connected to the internet, transmitting data to help you run the truck better and service the truck better,” Daum said.

Fleets with the new Freightliner Cascadia will soon be able to utilize over-the-air updates through Detroit Connect, including the ability to remotely program engine parameters and accept Detroit firmware updates.

At the Fox Theatre event, attendees also got a glimpse at what the future of final-mile logistics might look like.

Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, introduced a van on stage that opened its side door to deploy package-delivery robots designed for sidewalks.


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