Automated trucks seek German licence


Daimler's self-driving trucks are already being tested in Nevada
Daimler’s self-driving trucks are already being tested in Nevada

Car manufacturer Daimler is hoping to test self-driving trucks on German motorways this year, according to a company executive.

Speaking to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Wolfgang Bernhard said he was “positive” the firm would get certification within weeks.

Daimler has been road-testing its autonomous trucks in Nevada since May.

Although a computer controls the vehicles, a human driver is present at all times.

Daimler is currently seeking certification for a self-driving truck so it can be tested on public roads in Germany.

A spokesman confirmed the firm is seeking approval to operate the vehicles near the city of Stuttgart.

“We’re testing in Germany on our own proving grounds. The next step is getting real-life experience on German highways as well,” the spokesman told the BBC. “We’re looking to do that in the second half of the year.”

‘Autopilot for trucks’

He added that the system could be thought of as comparable to autopilot technology already in use on aircraft.

“We believe it’s safer and more efficient if, on these long highway [journeys], the truck drives by itself,” he said.

Daimler’s autonomous trucks use a combination of radar, lasers and camera systems to identify obstacles and the boundaries of the road.

A computer system, when driving, can control acceleration, braking and steering. It is also able to perform an emergency stop.

Daimler says that a human driver is always present and able to retake control of the truck immediately if required.

Sharing the road

Alan Stevens, a transport expert at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), said developing the technology is the “right direction” to be going in as there is a strong business case for fully autonomous trucks.

However, he added that there was a long way to go before such vehicles would be roadworthy without an on-board supervisor.

“It’s probably got to be 10 or 100 times better than a human driver before it’s socially acceptable,” he said.