Daimler quits platooning research in the march to Level 4 autonomy

Friday, January 11, 2019

Daimler Truck and Bus CEO Martin Daum makes the company’s vision and strategic direction in regard to autonomous trucks crystal clear. 

On the back of another stellar year for the world’s largest truck manufacturer, Daimler Truck and Bus CEO Martin Daum announced to the world’s media gathered for the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, “We are ready to move boldly forward”.

What he was referring to was the company’s intention to spend €.5 billion over the next half a decade or so pursuing Level 4 autonomy in trucks. The casualty in all this is platooning, or wirelessly connecting two trucks travelling in close proximity in the pursuit of better fuel economy.

“We are not prioritising any more platooning,” said Daum. Current obligations and commitments will be seen through, but at this stage that will be it, “Unless we’ve missed something”.

He said that in controlled environments platooning was able to meet the projected savings, but as soon as it was taken to the real world the savings just weren’t there. However, the €50m spent to date on platooning was not wasted money as it helped refine many of the L2 safety systems we’re seeing today.

When asked where the majority of money will be spent from a regional standpoint, he simply said it will be spent by Daimler, although much of the early R&D and trial work will take place in the US on account of the road conditions, traffic flows, and topography.

He cited the two overarching drivers for the move as the need to improve safety, and the doubling of global freight between 2015 and 2050, which will require a paradigm shift in our thinking on vehicle utility, economy, and overall efficiency.

It was a big announcement as Daimler move to launch the Level 2 Autonomous Freightliner Cascadia to the market mid-year in the US. We’ll cover the press conference and new Cascadia in detail in upcoming issues as well as comment on the implications of a Level 4 world.