Join Ed Higginson at the IAA Hanover as Mercedes-Benz updates the Actros
As a major conglomerate in the motor industry, Mercedes-Benz has long been a technology leader in cars, vans, buses and trucks. This year the company showed it still held the same belief, saying, “Others talk, but Mercedes delivers”. And with sales up 38 percent so far in 2018, it’s proving that its new products are hitting the mark.
We may just be getting used to the new Actros in Australia, but Europe has already launched the New(er) Actros to the European market, in front of 500 journalists the day before the IAA Truck Show. And, luckily for me, I was there to see for myself where Mercedes, and therefore many others, are heading. I was also the first to go for a ride in the New Actros around the streets to see that these are not just futuristic prototypes, but series production trucks about to go on sale.
With 60 updates over the current model, there are some truly amazing features, with four world-firsts.
Firstly, Active Drive Assist is the first semi-autonomous system to go into a production ready truck. The Lane Keeping Function allows the driver to lift his or her hands off the steering momentarily, before the truck gives an audible alarm asking you to place a hand back on the wheel. Steering is smooth and precise on both straight and twisty roads, as long as the lane markings are clear.
The system also uses the proven Proximity Control system with stop-and-go functionality so the driver doesn’t need to brake when coming up behind traffic in town. If the car in front stops at the lights, the truck will stop gradually behind it. When the car moves off, the truck will get back up to speed without the driver needing to touch any of the pedals.
On the drive on roads around Hanover, the system was clearly advanced and ready for sale. It never felt to be out of control and proved to a useful tool. I’m just not sure how the authorities in Australia would react to seeing your arms folded at 100 km/hr, or, an even bigger issue, if you were on your mobile phone!
Secondly, Active Brake Assist 5 is the latest version of Daimler’s well-proven Active Brake Assist. It can now detect and react to pedestrians who step into the road ahead of the vehicle and perform an emergency stop within the truck’s limits.
If the system detects an imminent collision ahead, either with a vehicle, a stationary object or person, the driver gets an alert. Then, if they take no action, the truck’s brakes are partially applied. If the driver still does not act, it will perform a full emergency stop then apply the electronic parking brake automatically.
Thirdly, the dash is now a Multimedia Cockpit, with all the driver’s information being displayed within two 10-inch touchscreen displays. The main display behind the steering wheel shows all the usual driving information such as the speedo and fuel information, plus actions of the Active Drive Assist. It can also be configured to suit individual preferences with the option to store six driver profiles.
The secondary display is designed as a touchscreen to control features that would previously have had a button or switch, such as aircon, lights, or telephone. This display can also show the vehicle’s status, such as tyre pressures or axle loads. Both screens can be controlled using the two touchpads on the steering wheel too, just like a laptop mouse pad.
Fourthly, Mirror Cam removes the main external mirrors and replaces them with cameras to improve aerodynamics and reduce fuel consumption, while also increasing visibility when looking out past the A-pillars. Camera vision is then displayed on mirror-shaped visual display screens mounted on the A-pillars inside the cab.
During my ride, the rear-vision camera display screens inside the cab were impressive for their coverage and for reducing the typical blindspots caused by modern large mirrors. I’m curious why Mercedes has left the old-style side blindspot and front-mounted mirrors, maybe these will disappear soon, as seen on some other trucks at the show. I would also be interested to see how certain countries will react under their restrictive design rules in order to permit the move away from traditional mirror heads to camera vision alone.
One neat benefit of the camera system is that you can easily see around the outside of the truck at night, when you have the curtains closed, to check your security.
Mercedes unveiled its ‘Future Truck 2025’ at the IAA Truck Show back in 2014, but the company has since been a little conservative with its timeline, given that many of the features are only now being made available in 2018.
These include specific features such as Sideguard Assist that detects objects alongside the truck and trailer or moving into the turning path of the vehicle combination. In these circumstances the vehicle is able to apply the brakes without driver intervention to protect cyclists and pedestrians.
Mercedes will also fit Traffic Sign Assist to the new Actros, which is able to detect speed limits, no-overtaking zones and other warning signs to show them on the display. The system also issues warnings when the driver ignores the rules.
While all these features have the aim in mind of trying to make the Mercedes truck the safest on the road, an important bi-product of this technology is the improvement of fuel economy. Operators in Australia that have switched to the Actros Euro-6 technology claim impressive fuel figures. These new refinements and improvements result in further claims of an additional 5.0 percent economy improvement, providing a financial incentive as well as safety benefits for early adopters.
Impressions from the first ride in the New Actros were fantastic. It’s an ultra-modern design both inside and out. If the functions work as described, then I look forward to taking the truck for a serious test back in Australia, hopefully soon.
The New Actros certainly took centre stage, but with over 17,000 square metres of display area full of trucks, vans and buses, there were many other interesting vehicles on the Daimler Truck stand.
As with many other manufacturers, Mercedes has proven power alternatives to the diesel engine. These include the Actros NGT powered with natural gas, which is becoming increasingly popular in Europe at the moment with a lot of new fuel stations opening.
Also on display was the fully-electric eActros in striking blue livery. This hit the road back in 2016, along with the FUSO eCanter that went into production mid-2017. Both are serious alternatives to light diesel trucks around town. For those requiring similar efficiency further down the weight range, Mercedes-Benz vans will soon be offering a full suite of e-Power models in the eVito, eSprinter and eCitaro in full-electric drive.
The key features of the eActros are eleven battery packs in the frame area and underneath the vehicle, with a total capacity of 240 kWh and wheel-hub-mounted electric motors with a maximum output of 2 x 126 kW. There is a small weight increase with the batteries, but this is constantly reducing through developing technologies, plus the EU is allowing an additional tonne in the permissible GVW for trucks with alternative drive systems. At 200 km, the range of the eActros is enough for the typical city run.
The FUSO eCanter is Daimler’s first series-produced light-duty truck with all-electric drive. It is already serving a range of customers in six major cities in North America, Europe and Asia, running emission-free and virtually silent. The six batteries deliver a total output of 82.8 kWh offering a possible range of more than 100 km, with an electric motor output of 129 kW. The FUSO eCanter has a payload of up to 3.5 tonnes, depending on the body and application, which should meet most requirements.
With so many new technologies and drivetrain options, Daimler Trucks has a solution for most markets around the world, and it’s clear why the company continues to be one of the market leaders. Despite the Australian Federal Government’s rejection of climate change, PowerTorque fully supports these new advances and the possibility of their appearance on the Australian market within a short timeframe. Industry and forward-thinking operators are already pushing for safer and cleaner trucks, and, hopefully, they will be supported by the Australian vehicle regulators and government as they also realise the potential these technologies bring to our environment.