The truck on test is probably the ideal B-double prime mover from Benz. It is an Actros 2663 with the StreamSpace cabin, which includes a flat floor. In fact, this particular cabin is laid out in the SoloStar configuration, which Mercedes-Benz have introduced as an option, but not many truck buyers have shown a lot of interest.
What we are examining in this test is the driving experience in the Actros using as much of the automated, automatic and other safety systems as possible. This may not be the choice of all of the drivers who end up in this driving seat, but all of these systems are on offer. We are trying to examine exactly how all of them can work together, they’re all turned on and this driver will note how the systems react to different driving conditions.
The basic active cruise control which Mercedes-Benz call proximity control has been with us for some time. In fact, this driver drove an early version of the system in Mercedes-Benz Actros on the autobahns of Germany over 16 years ago. This system is much smoother now than it was at that time and the mix of camera and radar produces great results.
In urban conditions the driver simply pushes the accelerator to go and hits the brake to slow. Once out on the open highway it’s a simple matter of setting the maximum speed, for the section of road and ensuring that the following distance is set at a reasonable number of seconds and any other over run is limited to two or three km/h.
This model is fitted with the optional Predictive Powertrain Control, which means that the system is loaded with topographic maps of the main highways of Australia and this will inform the cruise control about the road ahead. This means that the AMT may select a lower gear just at the foot of a climb or cruise control will cut torque just before the crest of the hill to allow the forward momentum of the truck to take the combination over the top of the rise and use the downward grade to pick up speed again.
Also available is the eco-roll system, which will disengage the clutch when the system recognises that the current speed can be maintained without any input from the power train. Recent examples of these types of systems have begun to be more effective than they were when they first came out. Now, you can expect the system to take advantage of any situation where there is a slight incline and disengage the clutch allowing the RPM levels to drop to around 600.
The way all of these systems work together is virtually seamless in the Actros. This is the trick to getting a state-of-the-art truck right. A lot of these automatic driving systems are generic and they come from different suppliers, but it is in the way that they are integrated into one system, which makes them more effective and also more useful to the driver, ensuring they are more likely to use most of these automatic systems in their normal daily driving.
This appears to be the essence of what we are looking for in a modern top-end highway prime mover. Many of the systems are very similar across different brands, but the brand which can make all of these different components work together holisticly is the one which will be more attractive to drivers and operators.
In terms of integration, Mercedes-Benz have got a lot of things right, and this is the ideal B-double prime mover from Benz and competitive with comparable brands of truck. Some of the electronic safety or driving systems may not be perfect, and we may see them disappear in the next few years. However, altogether and over time Benz seem to have got quite a lot of this integration correct.