Freightliner parent Daimler Trucks forms autonomous division

user-gravatar Headshot
Updated May 31, 2019
World Premiere Freightliner Inspiration Truck

Daimler Trucks announced Wednesday the formation of a new internal division, the Autonomous Technology Group — the latest move by Daimler Trucks in its effort to put highly automated trucks on roadways within a decade.

The new unit, effective June 1, will be tasked with comprising strategy and implementation of a plan to deploy autonomous trucks, including research and development, as well as setting up the required infrastructure and network as the truck maker inches toward hoped-for series production of Level 4 trucks.

“We are the pioneer for automated trucks. With the formation of our global Autonomous Technology Group, we are taking the next step, underscoring the importance of highly automated driving for Daimler Trucks, the industry and society as well,” says Martin Daum, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for trucks and buses.

“We will be in the perfect position to put highly automated driving onto the roads, making transportation safer, saving lives and helping trucking companies boost their productivity,” he says.

Peter Vaughan Schmidt will lead the new unit. He says the group’s initial focus will be on use cases of Level 4 automation in defined areas and between defined hubs in the U.S. The group will work closely with customers whose businesses match this automated driving application, he says.

Software development for highly automated driving will be one of the key activities of the Autonomous Technology Group. Another will be the so-called vehicle project.

The vehicle project will be responsible for the redundancy in the chassis, enabling the vehicle’s systems to take over roles of a professional driver while on the road. It will also be responsible for integrating the sensors required to enable autonomous operation, such  as camera, lidar and radar. Those sensors, combined with an accurate map, underpin autonomous capabilities.

Infrastructure and networks, to be set up by the Autonomous Technology Group, will consist of one main vehicle control center, as well as additional stations at logistics hubs.

In 2015, Freightliner’s Inspiration Truck was the first commercial vehicle to obtain a road license for a partially automated driving. Earlier this year, the company debuted the 2020 Cascadia, which features a Detroit Connect-powered technology suite that enables Level 2 automated driving.

The Autonomous Technology Group has a global reach, with researchers working in various locations throughout the company’s worldwide development network, such as Portland, Oregon, and Blacksburg, Virginia, and Stuttgart, Germany. More locations will follow as the test fleet is built up and deployed. Blacksburg-based Torc Robotics will be part of the newly established Autonomous Technology Group, pending the authorities’ approval of the acquisition recently announced by Daimler Trucks.

Daimler Trucks says it will continue to work closely on automated vehicle technology across the company, including joint activities with passenger cars, for leveraging synergies. At the same time, truck specifications require own development activities due to the entirely different nature of the system (one-box vs. articulated) and focus on highway goods transportation vs. inner-city passenger transportation.