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Mercedes-Benz tests new Actros with Active Drive Assist

Mercedes -Benz Trucks has tested the new Actros with ‘Active Drive Assist’, which facilitates partially automated driving in all speed ranges.

In preparation for the new Mercedes-Benz Actros, Mercedes-Benz Trucks carried out final tests with customers. One of these customers is the forwarding agent Wagenstetter from Forsting in Upper Bavaria. The company transports foodstuffs and hazardous goods. The main transportation routes are between the Ruhr area and Northern Italy. Due to the high transport performance of their trucks the carrier is the ideal partner for customer test-driving. Within a very short space of time, huge mileages are achieved at Wagenstetter: trucks with two drivers can sometimes cover over 300,000 km per annum.

Premiere in a series truck: special focus on new Active Drive Assist in the Wagenstetter customer test.

When the new Actros in the Wagenstetter fleet was tested there was special focus on the new Active Drive Assist. The system is a key milestone in truck construction, as – for the first time in a series-production truck – it facilitates partially automated driving in all speed ranges. Active Drive Assist actively supports the driver through longitudinal and lateral guidance of the truck and can automatically brake and accelerate the vehicle, while also keeping within the proper lane. Of course, the driver retains total responsibility for the vehicle’s behaviour in traffic and has to adapt their driving style to the prevailing traffic situation.

Feedback from the test driver

At Wagenstetter it was Tom Westphal who drove the new Actros. The 50-year-old uses Active Drive Assist both on the main roads in Upper Bavaria and on his motorway runs, which regularly take him to northern Italy. “The system is a valuable support in many different situations: when there is lots of traffic, Active Drive Assist always helps me keep the right distance from the vehicle in front, but also not to give away any space. On long, monotonous journeys, on the other hand, it takes on the role of a co-pilot to a certain extent, always keeping an eye on me and also making slight corrections in good time. In a traffic jam, too, Active Drive Assist is a welcome helper thanks to its stop-and-go function. At the end of the day, the system relieves my workload. I do still have to monitor everything, but after nine hours I’m not nearly as exhausted as I used to be without it.”

Partially automated driving in all speed ranges

As soon as the driver has activated cruise control and set a speed Active Drive Assist is always switched on but can be switched off by the driver actively. When the system’s camera detects lane markings on both sides of the road, Active Drive Assist starts actively supporting the driver with longitudinal and lateral guidance of the truck. This is indicated to the driver in the central display on the Multimedia Cockpit in the form of a small blue steering wheel symbol and blue road markings.

Operation with cruise control and Touch Control pad: how the Active Drive Assist works The position of the truck in its lane can be set in several stages via the multifunction steering wheel in the new Actros: there are six switches configured in a circle located on the left-hand panel of the steering wheel, for operating features such as the cruise control. Situated centrally between these switches is a Touch Control pad which is important for operating Active Drive Assist: depending on the direction in which the driver wants to move the truck within the lane, they swipe left or right horizontally across the Touch Control pad and confirm their entry. They can also specify the distance from the vehicle in front here. To do this they swipe up or down vertically.

If the driver has programmed Active Drive Assist in this way and the truck comes too close to the vehicle in front, this is depicted in the central display in the form of a stylised view of a vehicle ahead. Active Drive Assist then autonomously brakes the truck. As soon as there is sufficient distance, the system automatically accelerates the truck back up to the speed set in cruise control.

The system takes on the same active role in lane guidance: if the truck is in danger of leaving its lane, Active Drive Assist steers the vehicle back, thus keeping it in its lane. An added bonus for safety: active lane guidance continues even if the driver has deactivated Active Drive Assist. Active Drive Assist utilises the new, electrohydraulically operated Servotwin steering system. It increases the steering torque on demand.

Drivers quickly establish trust in Active Drive Assist

“To start with, I first had to get used to the system,” admits Wagenstetter driver Tom Westphal. “It is definitely a very different driving feel when Active Drive Assist intervenes. But you quickly come to trust it, because the corrections always make sense and improve safety. This has a positive effect, especially in long-distance haulage. There’s simply less stress.”

Klaus Wagenstetter, managing director at haulier Wagenstetter, is impressed by the benefits of partially automated driving: “Active Drive Assist is a system that provides effective support for our drivers, in particular on motorways and main roads. A system for partially automated driving with this performance spectrum is currently only available in the new Actros. Mercedes-Benz Trucks has once again highlighted the fact that it represents the cutting edge in technology.”

“Harmonious overall package” – business owners are equally satisfied with the new assistance systems

All assistance systems in the new Actros operate in close co-ordination with one another: for example, Active Drive Assist employs the advanced radar and camera technology of the equally new Active Brake Assist 5 in order to detect preceding traffic and road markings. Active Drive Assist always operates in accordance with the specifications of the further-developed Predictive Powertrain Control, in order to move the truck along as economically as possible. Haulage operator Klaus Wagenstetter: “With the assistance systems, Mercedes-Benz Trucks offers a complete package which works harmoniously to sustainably improve the safety and economic efficiency of our business.”

New Predictive Powertrain Control saves even more fuel and proves its worth in rural transport

The further-developed Predictive Powertrain Control has also impressed the haulier. The system now helps the driver save fuel in rural transport applications as well as on motorways and main roads. Its digitally stored maps now also include country roads. The geometric parameters of bends, junctions and roundabouts are now included in the cruise and transmission control, as too is their signage: “We’re out and about on the country roads of Upper Bavaria a lot to ensure that we always have our tractor units and trailers where it makes most logistic sense,” explains Klaus Wagenstetter. “Predictive Powertrain Control helps us save fuel, and if you save fuel you can still earn good money in our sector. I’ve learned this over my past 30 years as a haulier.”

Tom Westphal is also impressed by the further-developed Predictive Powertrain Control: “I can now relax as I travel through the countryside with cruise control because Predictive Powertrain Control always selects the appropriate gear and the right speed. For example, when I drive past the sign as I enter a village the system automatically keeps to the speed limit.”

The MirrorCam improves aerodynamics, safety and vehicle handling – and it also impressed the test driver.

Due to its aerodynamic design, the new MirrorCam also helps haulier Wagenstetter save fuel. Main and wide-angle mirrors are replaced by the new MirrorCam in the new Actros – and also celebrate their world premiere in a series-production truck. The system comprises two cameras aimed at the rear whose recordings are transmitted to the A-pillars in the cab. As Tom Westphal explains: “The MirrorCam brings an enormous improvement in safety and vehicle handling as well as aerodynamics. I have a much better all-round view because the large mirrors are no longer there. I also find the distance lines very helpful as they make it easier for me to gauge the traffic behind.” His verdict is clear: “I’ve already told my boss that in future I only want to drive trucks with MirrorCam. He needn’t ask me to get behind the wheel of any other truck!”