When it comes to increasing vehicle safety, Mercedes-Benz Trucks has always been a pioneer in the industry. The company has invested hundreds of millions of euros per year in research and development, for assistance systems to provide even greater assistance to drivers in their work and increase safety for all road users. Most recent examples include Active Sideguard Assist with automated braking function and Active Drive Assist 2 with automatic emergency stop function, both available from June 2021.
Because each accident is one too many, everything has to be done to completely avoid an accident or at least ameliorate the consequences for all involved.
For more safety in traffic, assistance systems that can actively support the driver in situations recognised as dangerous by the systems without absolving him or her of responsibility are of crucial importance. For example, years ago the German Federal Association for Freight Transport, Logistics and Waste Disposal and the Trade Association for the Transport Industry (Bundesverband Güterkraftverkehr Logistik und Entsorgung and Berufsgenossenschaft für Transport und Verkehrswirtschaft, respectively) as well as the Kravag insurance company demonstrated in a field test with over 1000 vehicles that trucks equipped with driver assistance systems had a 34 percent lower probability of an accident than reference vehicles of the same type.
With systems such as the fifth-generation emergency braking assistant Active Brake Assist (ABA 5), Sideguard Assist with pedestrian and cyclist detection, Active Drive Assist for partially automated driving (SAE level 2) as well as MirrorCam in lieu of main and wide-angle mirrors, Mercedes-Benz has further increased the safety level of its trucks considerably. This is especially true for the current Actros generation as well as a large part of Arocs models which boast the highest standard of all current Mercedes-Benz trucks in terms of safety architecture and assistance systems installed.
New: Active Sideguard Assist with automated braking function
Being on the road in a heavy truck in city traffic, sometimes on narrow roads and with confusing intersections is a challenge for many professional drivers. This especially applies to turning manoeuvres. The driver needs to pay attention to traffic lights, signage as well as oncoming and cross traffic in front and also pedestrians and cyclists to the side.
The problem: vulnerable traffic participants are often unaware that a truck driver may not even be able to see them in certain situations. In addition, heavy trucks with large wheelbases or trailers often turn off in a way that is not easily understood by other traffic participants: before turning, trucks first drive straight ahead into the intersection, to make allowance for the trail characteristics of the semi-trailer or trailer. A cyclist or pedestrian crossing on the passenger side of the truck therefore sometimes doesn’t even think that the truck is going to turn off, but assumes that it is going to continue straight on.
An active braking intervention can be a life-saving function under certain circumstances
In such situations, Sideguard Assist, developed by Mercedes-Benz Trucks and available for many Actros, Arocs and Econic model variants since 2016, can intervene in a helpful way. Sideguard Assist can warn the driver by means of a multi-stage process during a right turn in case the system recognises, for example, a pedestrian or cyclist in the monitoring zone.
From June 2021, Mercedes-Benz also offers Active Sideguard Assist (ASGA) in addition to Sideguard Assist – with a potentially life-saving additional function: the new system can not only warn the driver of moving pedestrians or cyclists on the passenger side, but also initiate an automated braking manoeuvre at turning speeds of up to 20 km/h up to the standstill of the vehicle in case the driver does not respond to the warning tones. Via the steering angle, the ASGA can recognise the necessity of such a braking manoeuvre and, ideally, prevent a possible collision. Mercedes-Benz Trucks is the first truck manufacturer worldwide to offer such a system with an automatic braking function and thereby wants to contribute to further reducing the number of right-turning accidents with severe or even fatal injuries.
New: Active Drive Assist 2 with emergency stop function
Active Drive Assist (ADA) also represents a step forward in terms of safety and turns the new Actros into the world’s first series truck to be capable of partially automated driving (SAE level 2). Under certain preconditions it actively supports the driver in the longitudinal and lateral guidance of the truck and can automatically maintain the distance to the vehicle ahead, accelerate and also steer if the necessary system conditions such as sufficient curve radius or clearly visible road markings are met. If the driver comes too close to a vehicle in front, ADA can automatically brake the truck until the pre-determined minimum distance has been re-established. Once that is the case, the system can then re-accelerate the truck up to the pre-determined speed.
Available from June 2021, the newest-generation ADA 2 can do even more: the system is capable of initiating an emergency stop if it recognises that the driver has not been actively involved in the driving process for a longer period of time, e.g. due to health problems. First the system requests the driver via optical and acoustic signals to place his or her hands on the wheel. But if he or she does not respond after 60 seconds, even after multiple warnings, by responding e.g. with braking, steering, accelerating or operating the vehicle systems via the buttons on the steering wheel, within its limits the system can brake until the truck safely comes to a standstill within its lane while warning the following vehicles using the hazard lights. The emergency stop manoeuvre initiated by the system can be stopped by using a kick-down at any time. If the truck comes to a standstill, the system can automatically engage the new electronic parking brake. In addition, the doors are unlocked so that paramedics and other first responders can directly reach the driver in case of a medical emergency.
Active Brake Assist 5 – emergency braking assistant for motorways and city traffic
Active Sideguard Assist’s automatic braking intervention and Active Drive Assist 2’s automatic emergency stop are not to be confused with Active Brake Assist 5’s emergency braking function. ABA 5 works with a combination of radar and camera systems. Compared to ABA 4, it can respond to moving persons not only with a partial, but with an automatic full-stop braking manoeuvre up to a vehicle speed of 50 km/h.
If ABA 5 recognises the danger of an accident with a preceding vehicle, a stationary obstacle or a pedestrian that is either oncoming, crossing, walking in their own lane or suddenly stopping in shock, an optical or acoustic warning can be issued to the driver first. If the driver does not adequately respond, the system can then initiate a partial braking manoeuvre in a second step, with a speed reduction of up to three metres per second squared, which corresponds to approx. 50 percent of maximum braking performance. If a collision is imminent nonetheless, within system limits ABA 5 can perform an automatic emergency full-stop braking manoeuvre and then engage the new electronic parking brake after reaching a standstill.
The following applies to all assistance systems by Mercedes-Benz Trucks: they are all designed to support the driver as much as possible within the system limits – however, and in accordance with the law, the driver remains fully and finally responsible for his or her vehicle.