On the eve of the 2014 International Commercial Vehicle show (IAA) in Hanover, Germany in September, Daimler unveiled its Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025, to 350 journalists from thirty countries. Daimler had given a glimpse of the concept truck months earlier, but the finished model was no less astounding.
In July, Daimler had held its Highway Pilot global press event in Germany, to introduce a carefully camouflaged version of the concept truck to the media. The demonstration included running the truck at highway speeds on a section of the A14 motorway that had not yet been opened. But the stunning exterior of the actual concept truck drew a round of hearty applause from the IAA journalists.
According to Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, Daimler Board Member for Trucks and Buses, “all the sophistication and function of the truck are fully integrated into a very beautiful package.” Gorden Wagener, global head of design at Daimler Trucks, described the 2025 Future Truck as “a vision of sensual purity… The soft, slightly curved surfaces that are near-natural represent both efficiency and emotion. Inside and outside, the exceptional visual appearance symbolizes the great leap from classic truck to autonomous transport vehicle of the future.”
The front section is almost seamlessly aerodynamic. The traditional grille has been replaced by a single molded panel that almost covers the entire front of the truck, broken only by the bumper panel. Headlamps and side mirrors have also been eliminated.
The road is illuminated by a configuration of LED lights, enclosed in the front panel, which shine through a thin surface. The lights also communicate the mode in which the truck is operating. White lights mean the truck is being operated manually. In self-driving mode, the lights pulsate violet-blue. As in today’s vehicles, turns are indicated by orange flashing lights.
Adding to the aerodynamic lines of the cab, the side mirrors have been replaced by rear-facing cameras. The rear view is displayed on two twelve-inch screens inside the cab. As the cameras aren’t effected by dirt and precipitation, they provide better visibility.
The comfortable, studio-like interior of the cab makes driving seem more of a profession than a trade. The “transport manager” operates the truck by touchscreen. Daimler describes this type of driving as “an intelligent, highly capable and cost-effective combination of man and machine.”
The controls and indicators have been reduced to a few screens, as technology takes over regulating the truck’s functions. The dashboard has been replaced by a tablet computer. This leaves ample room for movement around the cab.
While operating the truck by the tablet, the driver can swivel the seat 45 degrees to the right and stretch out, facing a lounge-like passenger seat. The rear wall includes digital frames for personal pictures. As in today’s European models, the bed is in a high-set sleeper compartment.
In keeping with the theme of the 2014 IAA trade show, “Driving the Future,” the Future Truck, along with its autonomous concept, are milestones in Daimler’s “Shaping Future Transportation” initiative. The goals of this initiative include reduced emissions, resource conservation, and safer driving, accomplished by communication from vehicle to vehicle, and between vehicles and the infrastructure. Ideally, the vehicle of the future would transmit continuous information to the infrastructure about its size and specifications, its speed and direction of travel, and its acceleration and braking actions.
Dr. Bernhard compares the Future Truck’s central technology, the Highway Pilot System, to the autopilot on an aircraft. The Highway Pilot System sees the highway through a system of radar and cameras. The camera system offers a full view of the road, and allows the truck to identify single-lane or two-lane roads, moving or stationary objects, pedestrians, and anything that contrasts with the background, while giving precise measurements of the truck’s clearance. Cameras can also read traffic signs and lane markings.
While the Highway Pilot System isn’t essential for self-driving, and helps it interact with other vehicles nearby, as well as the roadway itself, while extending the capacity of the truck’s safety systems.
The Future Truck’s Blind Spot Assist system includes radar sensors on its left and right sides, in front of the tractor’s drive axle. The sensors monitor the road parallel to the truck, and alert the driver to obstacles and other vehicles when turning or changing lanes. Daimler plans to incorporate the Blind Spot Assist system into vehicles in the near future.
In keeping with the theme of the 2014 IAA trade show, “Driving the Future,” the Future Truck, along with its autonomous concept, are milestones in Daimler’s “Shaping Future Transportation” initiative. The goals of this initiative include reduced emissions, resource conservation, and safer driving, accomplished by communication from vehicle to vehicle, and between vehicles and the infrastructure. The latter involves a vehicle transmitting continuous information to the infrastructure about its size and specifications, its speed and direction of travel, and its acceleration and braking actions. The Highway Pilot would ideally interact with this type of system.
Dr. Bernhard says the Future Truck 2025 “provides compelling answers to the challenges that our customers will be facing in the future…. Our aim is to press forward with readying this technology for the market and to bring it to series-production standard. I am convinced that this will open up a whole new business perspective for Daimler Trucks.”
If the Future Truck is ready for North American sales in another decade, the price will likely be higher than that of its conventional equivalent. My marketing solution would be to offer an attractive toy version of the “FT2025” to today’s kids at Christmas. The fantasy rig of future drivers will be hitting the highway just as they get their CDLs.
Pictures of the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 are available online at the following sites: http://www.mercedes-benz.com/en/mercedes-benz/vehicles/trucks/iaa-commercial-vehicles-2014-in-hannover-2/