Daimler Truck plans to introduce series-production driverless trucks by 2030 in the United States. Gianenrico Griffini, Italian Trucking Editor and President of the International Truck of the Year Jury, got a taste of things to come when he hopped aboard a Freightliner Cascadia self-driving truck on the highways around Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.
We don’t have to wait years to see self-driving trucks on public roads. They are already a reality in the United States, with some prototypes based on the Freightliner Cascadia platform. Built by Daimler Truck North America, the semi trailers, equipped with Level 4 automated driving systems, are undergoing field tests in actual operating conditions on interstates around Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Albuquerque is the HQ of Torc Robotics, a company acquired by Daimler Truck in 2019. Torc develops the software, integrates, and fuses the inputs from different sensors, such as cameras, lasers, radars, and lidars, to allow safe automatic driving on high-traffic density highways. A lidar is a device that measures the distance from an object by a laser beam and returns high-resolution three-dimensional information on the surrounding environment.
On the highway at 65mph
The validation tests do not occur in confined areas but on multi-lane highways with a standard prime mover, trailer combination of 80,000 pounds (about 36.29 tonnes) at the maximum cruising speed allowed in the States of 65 miles per hour (just under 105 km/hr).
For safety reasons, during road tests, a human safety driver, assisted by a Torc Robotics engineer, is always ready to take complete control of the truck if a risky situation arises. The safety driver also has a crucial role in providing the software specialists with the feedback to program the onboard computer according to a prudent, safe, and fuel-conscious driving style, without hard braking and harsh accelerations.
In March 2022, Torc Robotics created a special advisory board, TAAC, Torc Autonomous Advisory Council, with leading companies in the sector, such as Schneider, Covenant Logistics, Penske Truck Leasing, and Ryder System, to foster collaboration and better understand the challenges faced by logistic companies.
The TAAC comprises key freight industry players who will provide strategic guidance to Torc as it integrates with the freight network and tackles challenges beyond highway driving. The goal is to introduce Level 4 series vehicles by 2030. The platform used to develop autonomous driving solutions is the Freightliner Cascadia. With an annual sale volume of around 85,000 -100,000 units in a normal sales, it’s the best-selling heavy duty prime mover in the USA.
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