German automobile manufacturer Daimler conducted the first-ever testing of the self-driving truck that it is developing last week in the Autobahn 8, which is a public transit route in Germany.
For the testing, a top Daimler executive was sitting on the front seat of the Mercedes-Benz Actros truck that was equipped with the Highway Pilot technology being developed by the company. The truck was able to drive a distance of 9 miles in the highway system.
"Today's premiere is a further important step towards the market maturity of autonomously driving trucks - and towards the safe, sustainable road freight transport of the future," said Wolfgang Bernhard, a board member of Daimler, in a press release.
Bernhard added that the completion of safety testing of the driverless truck in a real-world traffic situation was needed to make the decision to continue the development of the Highway Pilot technology. Daimler is now proceeding with the technology's development into market maturity.
The Highway Pilot technology was first unveiled by Daimler earlier in May, with a promise that the vehicle will be launched by 2025. Since then, the company has been testing the system within closed tracks located in Germany and the United States. The test on Autobahn 8 is the first time that the technology was tested by Daimler in a real-word setting.
Daimler's technology utilizes a system powered by radar, cameras, speed controls and other components. Currently, the Highway Pilot is not completely autonomous, as the truck's controls are handed back to the driver when certain obstacles such as inclement weather or roadwork appear. The system will release visual and audio cues to let the drivers know that they should take over the control of the vehicle, and if the driver does not do so on time, the vehicle will instead stop rather than risk an accident.
In addition, the driver is expected by Daimler to retain full responsibility over the vehicle, while continuing to monitor the road traffic and should always be ready to take back control of the vehicle whenever the situation calls for it.
The self-driving system will be taking over during stop-start traffic situations and on monotonous stretches of highway driving, where lapses of concentration lead to human errors.