DTNA unveils Freightliner eCascadia technology demonstrator

DTNA unveils Freightliner eCascadia technology demonstrator

The truck is based on a production battery electric Freightliner eCascadia and is equipped with Torc's autonomous driving software.

Daimler Truck is combining battery-electric drive and integrated autonomous driving technology in one semi-truck: the autonomous Freightliner eCascadia technology demonstrator. The company said the truck is based on a production battery electric Freightliner eCascadia and is equipped with Torc’s autonomous driving software and the latest Level 4 sensor and computing technology. This will eventually enable Level 4 autonomous driving. Torc Robotics is Daimler Truck’s independent subsidiary for autonomous virtual driver technology. While still a research and advanced engineering project, the autonomous vehicle has the potential to evolve into a modular, scalable platform that is propulsion-agnostic for flexible use in different trucking applications. The company said the goal is to offer customers a choice of the right vehicles for their specific business and transportation needs.

“By combining zero-emission and autonomous technologies in one product, we are testing solutions for challenges our customers are likely to face in the future,” John O’Leary, president and CEO of Daimler Truck North America, said. “We want to give them choices that allow them to do what they do best: keep the world moving today and well into the future. That takes a lot of foresight, questioning, testing, learning, improving and co-creating with our customers years in advance to ultimately find the right solution. This truck is a great example of the beginning of that development process.”

The battery-electric Freightliner eCascadia, a vehicle base for the autonomous eCascadia technology demonstrator, went into production in 2022 and has now reached six million real-world miles in more than 55 fleets in the United States. The company said this zero-emission Class 8 truck is designed to provide optimal productivity for fleets looking to transition to efficient, zero-emission tractors. The battery can be recharged to 80% capacity in as little as 90 minutes. Several battery and drive axle options are available, providing a typical range of 155, 220 or 230 miles, depending on the specific configuration. The Freightliner eCascadia is equipped with the proprietary Detroit ePowertrain, which the company said delivers performance, efficiency and reliability. The eCascadia also comes standard with the Detroit Assurance suite of safety systems, including Active Brake Assist 5.

For the first time, the autonomous sensor suite and compute power, currently being tested on the autonomous diesel Cascadia, is packaged to fit the smaller day cab configuration of the battery-electric Cascadia, according to Daimler. To ensure adequate cooling, Daimler Truck North America said its engineering team developed an advanced prototype air-cooling concept for the compute stack, which is efficiently positioned between the driver and passenger seats. Customized software provides the autonomous system with control interfaces and feedback on vehicle status. The in-house designed sensor bar cover, which incorporates cameras, lidar sensors and radar sensors, improves aerodynamic performance while providing better protection from damage and soiling. Four additional 12-volt batteries provide enough high-voltage power to ensure uninterrupted operation and increased efficiency and safety, the company said.

The company said its autonomous eCascadia demonstrator provides a glimpse of future autonomous use cases, including shorter, repeatable routes with the use of zero-emissions infrastructure. Depending on the application, future autonomous trucks could also be powered by hydrogen-based propulsion technologies.

In the currently tested hub-to-hub application, the truck’s intent is to drive autonomously between freight centers along U.S. highway corridors. By identifying synergies between zero emissions and autonomous infrastructure in a future scenario, the charging infrastructure and autonomous freight hubs could be combined to charge and load simultaneously, further enhancing efficiency for carriers, the company said.

The autonomous eCascadia technology demonstrator is designed with many commonalities with the production eCascadia, leveraging synergies in the development process, streamlining engineering processes and increasing customer value through ease of serviceability as customers may already be familiar with the battery electric Cascadia, according to Daimler Truck.

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