Mercedes-Benz introduces SAE Level 2 partially automated driving in the UAE with the New Actros

Published: 5 February 2020 - 9 p.m.
By: Dennis Daniel

A few months ago during the International Conference on Future Mobility held in Dubai, the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA) and Daimler Commercial Vehicles MENA conducted a test-drive of the semi-automated Mercedes-Benz Actros truck from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. This was the first time a semi-automated truck was driven on roads in the Middle East and Africa, demonstrating the vehicle handling and road safety of an SAE Level 2 autonomous system.

The Actros 5th generation features Active Drive Assist (ADA), the world’s first assistance system for semi-automated driving (Level 2) on a series produced truck.

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Unlike systems that only work at certain speeds, the ADA system offers the driver partially automated driving in all speed ranges and can brake, accelerate, and steer the truck independently. New features include active lateral control and the combination of longitudinal and lateral control at all speed ranges by combining radar and camera information.

Kay-Wolf Ahlden, president & CEO, Daimler Commercial Vehicles MENA, says: “Our intention was to showcase that the UAE provides an infrastructure which proves that the first serial produced partial automated heavy-duty truck, the New Actros, can be used with the latest technology on the local highways in daily traffic conditions between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The system worked very well and we are proud to say that all intentions were met with the test drive.”

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Khalaf Khalaf Al Hammadi, director of standards, ESMA, commented: “In the UAE, we are committed to achieving sustainable and environmentally-friendly transportation solutions. To fulfil this pledge we follow the vision of our nation’s leaders to have a transportation sector that is sustainable and future-ready.”

Active Drive Assist builds on the tried-and-tested proximity control assist system with stop-and-go function and the lane-keeping assistant from Mercedes-Benz. The system brakes the truck if it gets too close to a vehicle driving in front and accelerates again until a set speed is reached. It also actively keeps the vehicle in lane. If the vehicle is leaving its lane unintentionally, the ADA system intervenes and independently steers the vehicle back into its lane. The distance from the vehicle in front and the vehicle’s position in its lane can be adjusted in multiple stages using the driving assistance menu.

The New Actros can be opened or locked from a distance of up to 50m with a remote control key which does not need to be aimed directly at the vehicle. To start the vehicle, the key does not need to be inserted but must be in the vehicle or within a maximum radius of two metres around the start-stop button. The engine is switched off by pressing the start-stop button.

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“The New Actros elevates safety for all road users, efficiency for operators, and comfort for drivers to unprecedented levels. Mercedes-Benz Trucks constantly works on improving its product portfolio, and Daimler Commercial Vehicles MENA is dedicated to the Middle East and North African region, believing strongly that the benefits of this system can be realized in this region, alongside professional driver training and customer awareness of proper and safe system usage,” says Ahlden.

While the system provides substantial support and significantly contributes to increased road safety, the responsibility for monitoring the traffic situation remains with the driver. Therefore, drivers need advanced training to be able to understand the boundaries of the ADA system and to maximise its benefits.

“The New Actros offers a huge variety of assistance systems to the driver; however, they can only assist the driver if the driver knows how to use them and how to optimize driving with these systems. This requires an intensified driver training to transfer the know-how needed to benefit from the available systems and subsequently reduce wear and tear and optimize total cost of ownership,” says Ahlden.

The ADA system, which is available onlin the EU markets, will be offered to customers on a case-by-case basis in the Middle East, starting with the UAE.

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“Currently, we are not planning any other demonstrations of the ADA system in GCC countries. However, if one of our customers or partners is interested, we are open to discussing options for a repetition of the test drive. Our priority is to educate customers about the ADA system and ensure that that they have the upgraded skills required to use the ADA system, responsibly. We have started training our driver trainers including trainers employed by our general distributor network in the MENA region at the Daimler Training Centre in Dubai,” says Ahlden.

As the next step in its automation strategy, Daimler Trucks is pursuing SAE Level 4 highly automated driving, instead of Level 3 conditionally automated driving. To achieve this, the company has acquired Torc Robotics, a pioneer in autonomous driving solutions, to commercialize SAE Level 4 trucks in the US. Currently, Daimler and Torc Robotics are testing automated trucks with SAE Level 4 technology on highways in southwest Virginia. All automated runs require both an engineer overseeing the system and a highly trained safety driver certified by Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics.

“Daimler Trucks decided to skip Level 3 autonomy as from our point of view, the intermediate step of conditionally automated driving, does not offer a significant benefit by cutting costs by mile significantly for the customer. Realistically, the first Level 4 autonomous trucks will be available in the next decade subject to approval from US regulatory bodies,” says Ahlden.

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