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Ten years after their debut, autonomous trucks are finally hitting the roads

07.10.2015 | ExtremeTech | www.extremetech.com

It was ten years ago this month that Terramax, the world’s first fully-autonomous truck, competed in the DARPA autonomous vehicle Grand Challenge.

At 32,000 pounds, with self-inflating tires, it was a prototype for what the US military hoped could be a safer way to transport supplies in war zones. This week Mercedes-Benz’s Daimler Truck unit ran the first test of a production model truck with an autonomous driving system on a public road. A modified Actros semi was driven on the Autobahn - with the truck’s radar-assisted Highway Pilot system taking control during the open road stretch of the trip. This isn’t the first open-road test of an autonomous truck - Mercedes’ division Freightliner tested a concept version in Nevada earlier, but it is the first test based on a production model.

Autonomous truck hits the road

The system employed by Mercedes uses both a short-range radar (up to about 230 feet) in a forward-facing arc, and a longer-range unit that scans to 820 feet in a much smaller arc. There is also a stereo camera for detecting signs and lane markings. Because the system is only designed to operate the truck while moving forward on a highway, it doesn’t need to have all the additional sensors that a fully autonomous vehicle like the Google self-driving car would.

When available, the Highway Pilot is activated simply by pressing a blue button. At any time when the system detects a driving condition it can’t handle (like a traffic jam or job site), it alerts the driver and will stop the truck if needed.

Read more at ExtremeTech

Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz

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