Daimler AG is a German automotive company and one of the world’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturers. The 133-year-old company is perhaps best known for producing Mercedes-Benz and Smart cars, but they’re also running some rad experiments in the realm of self-driving trucks.
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It began last year when Daimler publicly launched their “Inspiration Truck,” an 18-wheeler semi-autonomous truck in Nevada — the first of its kind cleared for road tests. Nevada is one of four states that permits self-driving vehicles on public roads.
Since then, they’ve been working on platooning technology, which allows trucks to connect wirelessly to each other. Daimler tested out this technology with three trucks traveling along Germany’s autobahn, which at more than 8,000 miles, ranks as one of the most dense and longest highways in the world.
This was the first time platooning technology was tested with driverless vehicles. The trucks drove 80 kilometres an hour at about 15 metres apart.
Daimler wanted to prove how self-driving technology could improve the efficiency of long-haul trucks traveling on freeways.
The company predicts autonomous trucks could improve fuel efficiency by 5%, and also reduce the space used on the highway by almost half. Usually big rigs require a spacing of 150 feet, but this test proved it was possible to decrease it to 50 feet.
“The smart, self-optimizing truck has the highest priority for us,” said Sven Ennerst, head of Daimler’s Truck Product Engineering & Global Procurement division. “Using connected communication between the truck and other vehicles and the surroundings, we can improve traffic flow and lower fuel consumption and emissions.”