Daimler to Launch Semi-Autonomous Big Rig in U.S.

Later this year in the U.S., Daimler AG will begin offering a heavy-duty truck with Level 2 semi-autonomous driving capability.

The modified Freightliner Cascadia will be able to brake, accelerate and steer on its own under certain conditions, including changing lanes. Daimler, which is demonstrating the technology at this week’s CES electronics show in Las Vegas, says it will be the first truck sold with such capabilities in the U.S.

The system will use a variety of cameras and radar to constantly monitor the vehicle’s surroundings. The driver will be expected to take full control of the vehicle immediately as necessary.

Daimler’s Truck unit is investing 500 million ($575 million) in autonomous technology and aims to launch a “highly automated” Level 4 truck within a decade. To support the project, the company is adding 200 jobs, mostly at its research and development center in Portland, Ore.

The company also continues to test platooning systems, in which automated driving systems enable trucks to more closely follow each other during highway driving. But Daimler says initial tests have not demonstrated sufficient fuel savings to pay for the technology.

The all-new Cascadia, which launches this summer in series production, is 35% more fuel efficient than the first-generation model that bowed in 2007. The gain is achieved via a combination of aerodynamic, suspension and powertrain improvements.

The truck’s adaptive cruise control system can operate in stop-and-go traffic. The vehicle also features lane-changing assist and automatic emergency braking.