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Daimler is just one step away from fully autonomous semi-trucks

Daimler CEO Martin Daum. ( Photo: Linda Baker / FreightWaves )

This story was updated at 3:47 p.m. with additional information

Las Vegas — Today at CES Daimler Trucks executives announced the company will invest around $570 million to bring highly automated trucks (SAE level 4) to the road within a decade. 

Highly automated driving refers to automated travel in defined areas and between defined hubs without any expectation of the system that a user will respond to a request to intervene.

Level 5 means that no human driver is necessary, which means that at level 4, the German manufacturer is within striking distance of full automation.

Daimler also introduced the first SAE Level 2 automated truck in series production in North America with the latest enhancements to Freightliner’s new Cascadia. 

Level 2 means the truck is capable of both steering  and acceleration/deceleration control. Those technologies were featured by Daimler at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway today.

The features allow the truck to brake, steer and accelerate without human intervention.

“In these trucks, the trucker is never tired, never has a bad day, “ said Daum. The technology also enables better fuel efficiency, he said.

The new Cascadia is the first to feature adaptive cruise control at all speeds along with active lane-assist technologies. The system detects objects in the passenger-side blind spot for the tractor and a full-length 53-foot trailer.

The year 2018 was the company’s most successful year, ever with sales of more than 500,000 vehicles, Daum said.  “The company feels obligated to innovate,” he said, noting that Daimler built the world’s first truck, in 1896.

Daimler will put a level four truck on the road in the U.S. this year, Daimler Trucks CEO Martin Daum said during a speech this morning at the Keep Memory Alive Center. He declined to say where.

In another update, Daum said the company would no longer focus on platooning technology. It worked in the lab, he said.  “But there were too few moments on public roads and we tested it for thousands of miles. Not too often we not were able to get those [fuel]savings. Whenever the platoon got split used more fuel, he said.

In commercial trucking, he said, level 4 is the natural next step after level 2, increasing both efficiency and productivity, he said.

This is the first year Daimler Trucks has visited CES. The presence of a commercial trucking company at the world’s biggest consumer electronics shows shows how much technology has flattened the worlds of consumer and business tech.

“Why are we here?” asked Daum. “Because our trucks are all about technologies.”

Linda Baker, Senior Environment and Technology Reporter

Linda Baker is a FreightWaves senior reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Her beat includes autonomous vehicles, the startup scene, clean trucking, and emissions regulations. Please send tips and story ideas to [email protected].