Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Autonomous, connected Mercedes-Benz trucks drive in convoy across Europe

William Payne
April 7, 2016
Three connected and autonomous Mercedes-Benz Actros trucks have made a cross-border convoy drive across Europe from Stuttgart in southern Germany to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. 

The convoy was taking part in the European Truck Platooning Challenge 2016 initiated by the Netherlands government as part of its EU-Council Presidency. 

Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, responsible for Daimler Trucks & Daimler Buses in Daimler’s Board of Management, personally bade farewell to the drivers at their departure from the Mercedes-Benz museum for their two-day trip.

Dr Bernard said: “We consider platooning as meaningful part of the integrated approach in which all stakeholders in road transport contribute to reduce fuel consumption and CO2. Driving in a convoy is one of numerous examples to raise the performance of goods transport extensively with connected trucks. Today already 365 000 commercial vehicles of Daimler are connected. We are consequently pushing this development.”

Daimler Trucks’ Highway Pilot Connect is an advance on Highway Pilot, the company’s system for automated driving of heavy trucks. Highway Pilot Connect allows electronic docking, or platooning, of vehicles on motorways and long-distance highways. 

According to Daimler, connected vehicles in a platoon require a distance of only 15 instead of 50 metres between them. This smaller distance produces a significant reduction in aerodynamic drag – comparable to slipstream riding in cycling competitions. In this way a platoon of three trucks can achieve a fuel saving of up to ten percent, reducing CO2 emissions in the same measure.

In parallel with this, platooning allows much more efficient use of the road space: thanks to the shorter distance between vehicles, a platoon of three linked trucks has a length of only 80 metres. In contrast to this, three trucks which are not electronically docked require a total of 150 metres of road space. At the same time platooning makes road traffic safer: while a human behind the wheel has a reaction time of 1.4 seconds, Highway Pilot Connect transmits braking signals to the vehicles behind in less than 0.1 seconds. This reduced reaction time can help reduce rear-end collisions. 

As an element of the so-called integrated approach, connected driving in the form of a truck-platoon can enable stakeholders in road transport to jointly contribute to the European Union’s goal of saving CO2 (30 percent until 2030 compared to 2005): Commercial vehicle manufacturers, body builders, the tyre industry, the logistics enterprises and finally the political stakeholders.