BTS 2021, News

Mercedes-Benz tests partially autonomous system in Australia

Mercedes-Benz will launch an Australian validation program for an Actros truck that can help steer itself at the Brisbane Truck Show.

It is the first truck with SAE Level 2 automated driving capability in Australia.

All up, 20 Actros models fitted with the Active Drive Assist feature will be validated by customers as part of the program that is designed to check how the system operates on Australian roads.

The system is not fully-automated and the driver needs to keep hands on the steering wheel at all times. It is one step ahead of some current systems that can push a truck back into the lane should it wander out.

This is because the Mercedes-Benz system actually helps to steer the truck in the first place and aims to prevent it getting out to the edge of the lane. Think of it as proactive rather than reactive.

It does this by using cameras to monitor the edge of the road and the lane markings, and uses that data to control an electric motor to assist with the steering. The driver can overrule the system at any time.

It is a long way from fully autonomous driving and Mercedes-Benz and the driver can turn the system off.

Mercedes-Benz has already had a handful of Actros models with the feature operating in customer trucks in the last few months and the feedback has been positive.

One operator we talked to was especially impressed with the system and is hoping that it will soon be made available in Australia.

Mercedes-Benz Trucks Australia is keeping its lips sealed about whether it plans to introduce the system in the local market.

It says it will look carefully at the data collected from the validation program and discuss the system with its customers and their drivers to see how it operates on all kinds of Australian roads, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Mercedes-Benz Trucks Australia Pacific Director, Andrew Assimo, says the Active Drive Assist technology is promising.

“Mercedes-Benz is always looking for new technology to boost safety and reduce fuel consumptions and emissions and we think Active Drive Assist could deliver genuine benefits,” he said. 

“Level 2 automation has the potential to deliver a major safety boost and make life easier for our drivers by helping to further reduce fatigue, so naturally we are very keen to see how the system operates on Australian roads.”

Mercedes-Benz launched a new Actros model mid last year, which introduced new technology including Multimedia Cockpit tablet screens, Predictive Powertrain Control, which uses GPS and topographic information to optimise gearshifts and coast when safe, and the optional MirrorCam mirror system.   

At Brisbane, Mercedes-Benz will also reveal an upgrade for its rigid range, which now features Active Brake Assist 5 safety technology and other safety features on all variants.

Mercedes-Benz will also present a truck that just participated in what it calls The Great Australian Drive on the Daimler stand.

The display will show the benefits of fuel saving innovations such as PPC. Telemetry from the truck will reveal the amount of ‘free kilometres’ that coasting using the PPC system is able to deliver.

Mercedes-Benz has already had a handful of Actros models with the feature operating in customer trucks in the last few months.
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