Daimler Trucks announced the creation of an Automated Truck Research and Development Center in Portland, Ore. The facility will be located at Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) headquarters on Swan Island in Portland, where DTNA already has a significant research and development presence, including a full-scale heavy-duty truck wind tunnel on Swan Island and the High Desert Proving Grounds nearby in Madras, Ore.
The center will be dedicated to further developing automated driving technology and understanding its impact on society and benefits for customers. Engineers there will draw on research and development resources from Daimler Trucks locations in Stuttgart, Germany, and Bangalore, India, to form a global network of hundreds of engineers devoted to the topic of automated driving, leveraging the experience and knowledge from previous research performed across Daimler’s vehicle divisions, including passenger cars. The three locations will work very closely together, while R&D activities on automated trucks in Germany will also be expanded to expedite and deepen the company’s efforts in this field.
The research center was announced during Daimler Trucks Capital Market and Technology Day, which attracted global journalists and investors. The new facility is part of the company’s plans to invest more than €2.5 billion (approx. $2.9 billion) in total research and development activities in 2018 and 2019 with more than €500 million (approx. $588 million) of that earmarked for e-mobility, connectivity and automated commercial vehicle technology.
Daimler Trucks believes that fully autonomous – driverless – commercial trucks will not be series-produced in the near future. However, the technology has the potential to create numerous advantages for the global logistics industry by helping fleets to keep up with ever-increasing freight demands as the pool of long-haul truck drivers continues to decrease, the company stated. The focus for Daimler Trucks is to carefully study all requirements for highly automated driving, to ensure any technology brought to market will improve road safety and driver productivity, while enhancing commercial vehicle performance, reliability and uptime for the customer.
The center will focus its activities on all aspects of development, testing and validation necessary for high levels of automation. This includes software, sensors, machine learning and simulation, as well as the necessary adaptation of the base vehicle platform. The Automated Truck R&D Center will also be established as a center for co-creation, where customers, suppliers, and business partners can provide input, ensuring the technology is calibrated to real-life applications.
“We are again aiming for a fully integrated, proven Daimler solution that will provide the best tool for our customers’ needs,” said Roger Nielsen, president and chief executive officer of Daimler Trucks North America. “We can accomplish this with a combination of vehicle road testing over millions of miles around the globe and advanced simulation. The global collaboration that takes place among research and development teams at Daimler extends to vans, buses and passenger cars, and each advancement is a building block for the future of automated vehicles.”
Daimler Trucks has a well-established track record of developing automated driving technologies, beginning with active safety systems that have achieved strong market penetration. The Detroit Assurance 4.0 suite of safety systems, for example, forms the basis of the sensor systems that will ultimately be used in highly automated applications.
One recent development out of the area of automated truck driving, platooning (known as pairing when two vehicles are used), was demonstrated with paired trucks as part of the Daimler Trucks Capital Market and Technology Day at Portland International Raceway. Using the sophisticated radar and camera sensor systems currently available as part of Detroit Assurance, along with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), braking is coordinated across platooned vehicles and steering is partially automated to keep the trucks in the center of their lanes. The following trucks in the platoon respond to braking commands in less than three tenths of a second – significantly faster than a human can react – which allows for close following distances. The platooning demonstration illustrates the safety and fuel efficiency benefits the company delivers through its automated technology leadership.
The first real-world operation testing of platooning in the U.S. is in preparation. DTNA is working with top customers on the technology to validate the practicality of hauling commercial freight with platooned vehicles.