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Daimler Trucks has formed a global autonomous driving group, dubbed the Autonomous Technology Group (ATG), to help reach its goal of having autonomous trucks on US roads by 2020.
According to head of strategy Peter Vaughan Schmidt, who will lead the group, ATG will bring "together [Daimler Trucks’] global experts and their vast knowledge in automated trucking."
Schmidt further specified that ATG will roll out in stages, saying that "in the first stage, we will focus on use cases of highly automated driving in defined areas and between defined hubs in the USA."
The ATG unit will be responsible for Daimler Trucks’ overall strategy and implementation of its automated driving roadmap, including R&D and setting up operations infrastructure and networks.
Within R&D, ATG will focus on autonomous tech such as developing the redundancy in a vehicle’s chassis that allows its systems to operate the vehicle, as well as integrating automated driving sensor kits within trucks.
Here’s what it means: Despite stiff competition, Daimler Trucks’ focused autonomy efforts coupled with its autonomous truck expertise will help propel it into a market-leading position in the space.
- Daimler faces stiff competition from two self-driving tech startups that have been aggressively expanding their reach in the market.
- China-based TuSimple recently partnered with the US Postal Service (USPS) for a two-week trial that will see the company’s self-driving trucks haul USPS trailers between USPS facilities in Phoenix and Dallas. And in January, TuSimple revealed that it was conducting between three and five fully autonomous commercial trips a day across three different routes in Arizona and had 12 undisclosed customers.
- California-based Embark has partnered with e-commerce giant Amazon for a trial in which its self-driving trucks transport freight for Amazon along a small stretch of Interstate 10 in the southern US. While neither firm offered further details on the agreement, an Amazon partnership of any magnitude is a notable endorsement.
- In order to overcome its hotshot competitors, Daimler Trucks will likely lean on its expertise in autonomy and its access to extensive resources. Autonomy isn’t a new endeavor for Daimler Trucks. Over the last five years, the company has broken several barriers in the space. For example, in 2015, its Freightliner Inspiration Truck obtained the first-ever road license for a partially automated commercial vehicle. Daimler Trucks is also the first manufacturer to put partially automated driving features (SAE level 2) into series production. As the world’s largest manufacturer of heavy and medium trucks, Daimler Trucks has access to a large global workforce, advanced manufacturing technology, and the capital needed to build out superior autonomous capabilities. In January, the company revealed that it was investing $570 million to develop Level 4 trucks.
The bigger picture: The mass production of autonomous trucks will arrive before cars, presenting a more immediate opportunity for vehicle manufacturers.
While much of the hype surrounding autonomous driving tech has focused on consumer vehicles, trucks are much more likely to hit public roads first. Market leaders in the autonomous driving space, like Waymo and GM, have to train vehicles to work in complicated, congested driving landscapes. This includes mapping out city streets, accounting for local driving laws, and understanding the norms of the local population.
And reports have shown that both Waymo and GM are still currently experiencing issues with their tech. However, trucks generally don’t have to account for as many variables, as they can be programmed solely for highway driving.
There are also potentially fewer regulatory roadblocks for autonomous trucks, as they aren’t intended to transport human riders. This will enable the market to take off in the near future: The global autonomous truck market will grow by more than 50% between 2020 and 2025 to hit nearly $1.7 billion, per Allied Market Research estimates.
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