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Mercedes-Benz self-driving snow removal vehicles in operation

20 October 2017

On the site of the former Pferdsfeld airbase, Mercedes-Benz demonstrate the practical application of automated snow removal operations at airports.

Automated Mercedes-Benz Arocs trucks clear the way (Credit: Daimler)

Martin Daum, the Daimler AG Board of Management member responsible for Daimler Trucks, emphasises: "We are not just talking about new technologies, we are bringing them onto the road. Step by step we are developing our very latest assistance systems even further – with a view to automated driving. We are currently working on the implementation of two specific use cases: Firstly automated driving in quite normal traffic on motorways – with the clear aim of relieving driver workload and significantly improving safety. And secondly driverless operation in enclosed areas to significantly improve productivity. With the demonstration of automated snow clearance on an airfield, we are once more reinforcing our claim to technological leadership."

Under the project name "Automated Airfield Ground Maintenance“ (AAGM), four Mercedes-Benz Arocs tractor units demonstrate automated airfield clearing in a remote-controlled convoy. The benefits are obvious: Airfield clearances are hard to predict and thus difficult to plan, especially in winter. This makes snow removal units operated with pinpoint precision by a single vehicle operator to remove snow from runways especially crucial when extreme weather strikes without warning during the winter months, and they require no additional vehicle and staff scheduling.

The four Arocs test vehicles are equipped with the new Remote Truck Interface (RTI) for remotely controlling vehicle functions and exchanging data. The RTI is the centrepiece of the new technology, for which Daimler can draw on a pool of knowledge and engineering from projects such as the advanced Highway Pilot and Highway Pilot Connect systems.

All vehicles are fully interlinked via the RTI by means of telematic systems, all operate automated and all are able to lead or follow in the vehicle convoy. Specifically, this means that a convoy leader chooses a random unit from a fleet of available semitrailer combinations and defines this as the "lead truck". He then uses a control panel to define the number and sequence of the other convoy vehicles, and conducts a pre-operation inspection of his and all other semitrailer combinations.

Automated Mercedes-Benz Arocs trucks clear the way (Credit: Daimler)

What sounds simple is actually just as simple in practice. However, the complexity of the software behind it is enormous. All vehicles are equipped with dual GPS tracking (DGPS) and state-of-the-art vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V communication) technology.

In addition, the interplay of the innovative RTI and the remote control unit provides extremely fast and not least secure date exchange among vehicles. To make this work in real time, a full data exchange between the vehicles and the main control unit of the RTI takes place every 0.1 seconds. The transmissions in the area of V2V communication are based on the “Digital Short Range Communication DSRC” technology.

The automated snow removal convoy comprises four vehicles during the test phase and can be expanded to up to 14 units. It paves the way for further applications. In addition to other airports that have already signalled interest in such precision work machines for automated runway maintenance, solutions for a wide variety of applications are feasible thanks to the Mercedes-Benz Remote Truck Interface.

"This opens up new possibilities for our customers: High-precision manoeuvring procedures of conventional trucks, remotely controlled by the driver outside the cab – for example, positioned at the rear of the vehicle with a perfect view of the manoeuvres – are possible, as is unmanned driving in mines, at container terminals or other closed-off sites", says Martin Zeilinger, Head of Advanced Engineering at Daimler Trucks.


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