Andre takes a close look at Daimler Trucks’ Freightliner Level 4 autonomous capability and details.
The Daimler Trucks’ Freightliner featured in this video is a testbed for autonomous technology. Daimler hopes that in the next decade, a truck like this will be able to transport goods in certain areas under certain circumstances. The SAE states that a Level 4 autonomous vehicle is one that can drive without driver input. This vehicle has to be able to drive in various conditions and deal with emergency situations, without human input.
Restricted by a “Geo-fence,” the truck can only drive in an area that is electronically marked. A Geo-fence could represent a warehouse district, a stockyard, or even a selection of pre-mapped highways.
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
For years, DARPA has worked with a variety of experts building and testing autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles for military use. Much of the technology that Daimler is using is similar to those used by DARPA test vehicles. It’s possible that lead-follow technology may be part of the future of autonomous big rigs. It is simply a way for a convoy of robotically controlled trucks to follow a lead truck that may be piloted by a human. However, the Freightliner autonomous efforts are not limited to the convoy model of operation.
Daimler Trucks’ Freightliner test vehicle has 8 LIDARs. 10 Radars (short, mid, long, and ultra-long-range), and 12 cameras – along with other instruments. The point here is to build a vehicle that can explore and fine-tune autonomous technology for future applications. They appear to have every intention to put a truck like this into production in the next decade or so.
Many professional truck drivers are concerned about future job loss. Potentially, autonomous trucks do not require the same restrictions and mandates that human-piloted trucks do. They could be cheaper and more efficient to employ over the long run. We will see how this model evolves, but many experts see human drivers and operators continue to play a critical role in this industry. This includes driving these trucks for the “last mile” of a trip, refueling the trucks, fixing the trucks, inspecting the trucks, and more.
Others worry about the potential for the systems to run amuck and bring about roadway Armageddon. There is always potential for systems to crash, although I doubt these trucks would become “self aware.” Still, with certain types of malfunctions, it could put other road-goers at risk.
On top of that, there’s a concern on how these vehicles would interpret environmental conditions. One thing that is a major challenge for vehicles like these (including hardened DARPA trucks) is readjusting to the unpredictable.
In time, we’ll see how these new high-tech trucks deal with these challenges. For now, enjoy this detailed video with Andre at the Daimler proving grounds!