Daimler developing automated truck R&D center

Daimler Trucks announced Wednesday plans to create 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.

Daimler says 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 company says.

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 in total research and development activities in 2018 and 2019 with more than €500 million of that earmarked for e-mobility, connectivity and automated commercial vehicle technology, Daimlar says.

“We are pioneering technologies across the automated vehicle spectrum that make roads safer and help trucking companies boost productivity,” says Sven Ennerst, head of truck product engineering, global procurement, and Daimler Trucks China. “This center of excellence is part of our global innovation network and supports the Daimler Trucks ethos of rigorously testing new technologies, ensuring systems are developed safely and functionality is fully validated before it is released to customers.”

Daimler Trucks believes that fully autonomous and 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 focus for Daimler Trucks, the company says, 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 Automated Truck R&D 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 center will furthermore 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, the company adds.

“Our approach to developing highly automated driving technology will draw upon our proven expertise and long history of commercializing safe, reliable, and fully integrated commercial vehicles,” says Roger Nielsen, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America. “We are again aiming for a fully integrated, proven Daimler solution that will provide the best tool for our customers’ needs.”

He adds, “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.”

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), Daimler says 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. Daimler says 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, the company adds.

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