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Fear Mercedes’ self-driving truck
Mercedes-Benz calls it a “visually exciting and technically feasible take on the long-distance truck of tomorrow”. We call it bloody terrifying. Welcome, everyone, to Merc’s ‘Future Truck 2025’.
As the name suggest, it’s a rig built for the future but using technology that’s not far off: technology like autonomous driving, which will almost definitely result in the fall of mankind and the Destruction Of All Things.
So, this Merc truck employs a radar sensor in the lower area of the front end to scan the road ahead at long and short range; one has a range of 250m and scans an 18-degree segment, another short range sensor scans 70 metres ahead at a 130-degree segment. These form the ‘eyes’ of the proximity and braking systems.
Then there’s blind spot assist and a stereo camera behind the windscreen that can identify single or dual carriageways, pedestrians, moving and stationary objects and can “measure clearances precisely”. We certainly hope so.
The Benz truck also does not, according to the Merc boffins, “need to be daisy-chained to other vehicles” to function as a self-driver, but this autonomous feature will be networked to transmit continuous data about its direction, speed, position, braking etc, to other vehicles up to a range of 500m.
It’ll pass on traffic information (and receive it too), with the overall goal to relieve the driver of strenuous steering duties on long-distance routes. Of course, it’s still a way off (the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic currently permits ‘corrective’ steering, but not automatic steering over 6mph), but Merc’s technology - as we’ve found out in the S-Class - is at the cutting edge already.
By lorry standards, the RoboTruck looks rather dashing, with LEDs lighting up the paintwork. The headlights, meanwhile, shine white when it’s being driven manually, but change to blue when under autonomous rule. Sadly they don’t flip to red when you engage Destroy Puny Humans mode.
Inside there’s lots of wood, a workplace area for when the truck is driving itself - say on the motorway on a long-haul - and thus includes a tablet computer and a seat that reclines and can turn 45 degrees into a ‘work space’. Being relieved of driving duties, of course, will give truckers far more time to concentrate on their interest in, ahem, modern graphic novels.
“Where the associate legal steps are taken,” says Mercedes, “the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 with the highway pilot system is the answer to the challenges of the future. The answer to increasing traffic, inadequate infrastructures, increasing cost pressure and a shortage of drivers.”
Honourable intentions, and a fine-looking thing. Nonetheless, TG is terrified. You should be too.