Commercial vehicles at the forefront of innovations for automation
For many years, commercial vehicles have driven the automotive industry forward with their huge range of different constructions, concepts, and innovations. The automatic gearbox and electronically controlled braking and emergency braking systems are just some of the technologies that were initially introduced in commercial vehicles before they were also offered in passenger cars.
With the high mileages they cover, commercial vehicles are predestined for automated driving. Whereas a passenger car in Germany travels an average of about 14,000 kilometers every year, long-distance commercial vehicles cover about 100,000 kilometers. However, development has always aimed for the same goals as those for passenger cars: efficiency, safety, and reducing CO2 emissions.
Developments in commercial vehicle technology
The information and functions both of tried-and-tested and of future driver assistance systems are being bundled into an overall system in commercial vehicles just as in passenger cars. The systems include adaptive cruise control (ACC), the lane keeping assistant, and the emergency braking system – to name but a few examples. Then there are also innovations such as digital 3-D maps. With their aid, the vehicle’s handling is adapted to the features of the road immediately ahead. So a truck can accelerate while approaching an incline in order to build up momentum and ultimately reach the brow of the hill more economically. These systems can very easily be expanded by car-to-X communication. Sharing information with other road users results in additional improvements in safety and efficiency.
Automated driving functions are especially attractive to fleet operators. Fuel consumption and emissions fall considerably because the traffic can flow more evenly. This means that higher average speeds are possible without the need to increase the top speed. Transport times are more predictable and there is less wear on the engines in trucks using the new features, owing to the smoother driving style.
Relieving the stress on drivers is an important factor in further development. Today’s truck drivers are subject to extreme demands. When driving in very dense traffic, they have to remain attentive at all times and are often under time pressure. In the more distant future they will be able to rely completely on the technological systems in their truck, and the truck itself will drive to its destination safely and efficiently thanks to its sensor systems and the sharing of data with its surroundings. This will make a lot of things easier for the drivers, who will be able to turn their attention to other tasks, such as flexible organization of the current route or planning future journeys.