Sit back, relax and keep on truckin’?
It could be possible soon thanks to technology being developed by Mercedes-Benz.
The company’s commercial division has unveiled its Future Truck 2025, which features autonomous driving technology that it says will allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel to manage other tasks while an autonomous “Highway Pilot” takes control.
Using a collection of radars and cameras based on those already employed on some Mercedes-Benz automobiles, the truck can also tap into proposed vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications systems, while connecting to the internet, and safely drive itself at speeds currently as high as 50 mph.
The prototype’s cabin unveiled this week has been fitted with a removable tablet for doing work on the fly, and a driver’s seat that rotates 45 degrees to let the “operator” stretch out. The wood flooring and leather trim is slightly more upscale and less industrial than a typical semi’s appointments, looking more like that of an S-Class sedan.
The exterior of the truck has also been optimized for aerodynamic efficiency to improve fuel economy, while giving it a next-generation style perfect for the auto show circuit.
By taking the toil out of long, highway stretches, Mercedes-Benz says the technology could make truck driving more appealing as a profession. The shipping industry today is facing a worldwide shortage of drivers, due in part to the long, boring hours involved in the job.
That’s not to say there won’t be anything to do, the driver will still be responsible for navigating off-highway roads and overtaking, but Mercedes-Benz thinks the technology and regulatory framework will allow the Future Truck 2025 to be on the road by, well, 2025.
And it’s not the only company working on this sort of thing. Volvo recently demonstrated its “Road Train” technology, where a lead vehicle is able to wirelessly guide a platoon of cars and trucks behind it, following in close formation to reduce aerodynamic drag and better manage the flow of traffic.
Enjoy the ride.