Daimler shapes its future
With the razzmatazz of a Broadway opening, Daimler AG delivered its “Shaping Future Transportation” event at the Campus Safety event in Berlin. The global gathering was aimed to showcase Daimler’s latest technological innovations in road transport safety, and to reveal what it claims to be the most efficient heavy diesel engine in the world. PAUL WHITE was there
First up was an introduction to the array of safety systems available across the Mercedes-Benz range of trucks, buses and vans. Expressing the importance of safety to Daimler, Wolfgang Bernhard, head of Daimler Trucks and Buses, said: “The vision of accident-free driving is our driving force.”
Though, interestingly, he described the proposed increase in vehicle lengths to accommodate an extended safety bumper as having limited value. To make his point he noted that a 40-t GVW truck travelling at 80 km/h, has the same kinetic energy as a Mercedes-Benz C-Class car travelling at 400 km/h.
Speakers outlined the value of systems such as Active Brake Assist 3, Blind Spot Monitoring, and Lane Keeping Assist. The main advantage of these systems is that they deliver safety benefits for all road users; because they are always on, always concentrating and not affected by weather or fatigue – unlike the human driver.
In Germany, operators are increasingly aware of the benefits driver-assistance devices can bring. This awareness is clearly reflected in new truck orders, where two out of every three Mercdes-Benz Actros trucks ordered will come with at least one additional safety feature. This is a significantly higher figure than the rest of Europe where it is one out of every 16.
Operators are also beginning to appreciate Daimler’s claim that almost 50 percent of major accidents can be avoided with driver-assistance systems. Daimler’s take on this is based on accident figures from the German Federal Statistics Office, which highlight a number of issues.
The statistics for commercial vehicle accidents, for 2013, show that rear-end collisions and lane-departure accidents account for 33 and 28 percent respectively. In third place, at 26 percent, are accidents at intersections, while 13 percent of accidents involved pedestrians and others.
The company can gain from certain economies of scale when developing new vehicle systems like Mirror Cam, which could potentially be applied across all Daimler products. Some systems are, however, specific to vehicle types.
An example is the anti-jackknifing system for the Mercedes-Benz Citaro articulated bus. Using data from the CANbus system, the newly developed Articulation Turntable Control (ATC) monitors the steering angle of the articulation turntable, and regulates the hydraulic damping in relation to the steering angle. This significantly reduces the seesaw effect of the rear section, and therefore reduces the potential to jackknife.
The light-commercial and passenger models have the widest variety of applications, including family runabout, campervan, goods transport, emergency services – and just about everything in between. This means that not everyone needs all, or any, of the systems available from the Mercedes-Benz catalogue. Nevertheless, safety across all models is paramount and systems can be selected as appropriate.
Volker Mornhingweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, highlighted the issue that vans can be driven on a “Class B” licence. Often drivers have little understanding of loaded vehicles with a high centre of gravity, and here the systems can help immensely.
To further strengthen safety credentials of its products, from August this year a basic version of Active Brake Assist (ABA) will become standard on truck models. This move means that Mercedes-Benz trucks will comply with “Stage 2” of the regulations, which are not expected until autumn 2018. Already there are about 60 000 units with an ABA system, and about 23 500 of those have ABA 3.
Unfortunately, things do go wrong. To help with post-accident recovery, Daimler has placed a unique QR Code at the ‘B’ pillar to assist rescue services to access vehicle details. Now, if the accident causes an airbag to trigger, the engine will shut down, the hazard and interior lights will activate, the front windows will partially open and the doors will unlock.
The main cause for celebration made its appearance on day two of the event when the Stuttgart manufacturer revealed the “latest generation of our successful OM471 engine”.
Since the initial launch, in 2011, of the then new Actros MP4, OM471 has been installed in over 250 000 Daimler trucks, with over 100 000 of those being Mercedes-Benz trucks. The redesign of OM471 has cost Daimler €60 million (R859,61 million). The company is confident that the money has been well spent – and that operators will agree.
What Daimler is offering operators is a fuel saving of up to three percent, based on an annual mileage of 130 000 km, at an average fuel consumption of 28,5 l/100 km. That equates to 1 100 litres of fuel, and about three tonnes of CO2 on a long-distance tractor and semitrailer.
In designing the new OM471, the engineers went back to basics and re-examined how each component worked, with a particular focus on air flow and fuel metering. The result means the 12,8-litre is now 20 kg lighter, and offers a choice of five power outputs from 420 to 530 hp (310 to 390 kW) at 1 600 r/min. Maximum torque ratings range from 2 100 to 2 600 Nm and are all delivered at 1 100 r/min.
One of the key elements is the second generation of the X-Pulse fuel system, which now delivers fuel to the redesigned eight-hole injectors at up to 2 700 bar pressure. In the cylinder, the compression ratio has been increased from 17,3:1 to 18,3:1.
Another key component is the new asymmetric turbocharger, which was completely designed in house. However, within the manifold there is a redesigned and newly patented EGR flap, which splits the exhaust gas between the turbine and the EGR system depending on demand. This helps the OM471 achieve an improved torque curve with (almost) maximum torque being delivered around 800 to
Importantly, the three power options from 310 to 350 kW are what Mercedes-Benz describes as “Top Torque” engines. This means when top gear is selected in the PowerShift3 transmission, an additional
200 Nm of torque is available to maintain cruising speed and reduce gear changing.
The low-end torque will improve driveability and will work well with the new, standard final drive ratio of 2,53:1. This combination gives an engine speed of 1 150 r/min at 85 km/h, on 315/70 R22.5 tyres, and should appeal to many operators.
Service intervals remain at 150 000 km, and Daimler is confident the new engine will prove as reliable as its predecessor. During the development process, OM471 covered 12,5 million test kilometres.
The unit will be installed in Setra Top Class Coaches from August, with truck orders for the new six-cylinder being taken for October delivery. (For more details see Global Focus on page 42.)
When the newly developed engine and safety systems are combined, the result is the dramatically styled “Future Truck”. The Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 project was launched, coincidently, one year to the day before the Berlin event. This means we are now one year closer to 2025.
Notably, within that year the world’s first autonomous truck, Freightliner’s Inspiration, has been approved to run on public roads in the state of Nevada in the United States, with others to follow (see FOCUS July).
In his closing address, Bernhard called on the European Union (EU) in Brussels to amend ECE R79, which only permits autonomous driving up to 10 km/h. A proposal on this amendment will be submitted in 2016, and it is expected that Mirror Cam, as shown on Future Truck, will be approved for use the same year.
“Between 2000 and 2011, while road transport performance in the EU grew by 15 percent, the number of fatal accidents involving trucks fell by 60 percent.
“Only a relaxed driver can be a good driver,” he concluded.
As regular readers of FOCUS know, this magazine has been appointed an associate member of the International Truck of the Year (IToY)! FOCUS is the sole South African magazine to have joined this prestigious body. One of the advantages of this association is access to exclusive articles, specially written for FOCUS by ITOY jury members. This is one such article.