Test driving the next generation Mercedes Benz Actros B-double prime mover, Diesel Magazine became part of the trial process. Taking the new Actros, in its standard B-double prime mover model, with a 16 litre 580 hp engine pulling 58.6 tonnes, from the Gold Coast, down the fast developing Pacific Highway to Sydney, gives us enough of a look and feel of the new truck to get a clear impression about where the new Actros sits in the Australian truck market.
This truck is giving us a vision of the future and a pathway to the concept, which seems to be flavour of the month, autonomous trucks. This truck has such complex systems, which the driver can turn on and off, but which, are monitoring everything which is going on and deciding what should be happening. the driver can choose to allow the systems to make the decisions or not.
All of the information is there, the truck watches the road in front, looking for obstacles as well as whether the truck is sitting in its lane correctly. It is also monitors driver input and will decide whether the driver is doing a good job or not, and mark them accordingly.
Even with all of the automatic systems turned on and working to keep everyone safe, this driver still finds his foot hovering over the brake pedal in some traffic situations, just in case. Even though it came close to the point where the driver has to intervene to avoid a situation a couple of times, the automatic system cut in just in time, every time. We have learned to trust these automated systems, but not completely.
What is bizarre for someone like this driver, coming from an era of changing a crash box by ear, minimal engine power, no radio and no aircon, is just how comfortable it does feel to let the decision making go to another entity, albeit under the driver’s supervision. It changes the way we need to think about truck driving and the philosophy behind it. The game is about to change.
Is this new Actros going to be a game changer here in Australia? This depends not on the truck, but on the Daimler organisation. This truck is something different, something innovative and it has the potential to change the way Australia looks at some aspects of truck driving.
On the other hand, this potential is going to be wasted if the new model doesn’t make a significant penetration into the market. Mercedes Benz in Australia will have the tools to up the profile of its brand, but will it manage to bring it off?
Other European brands are increasing market share, not least the Scandinavians. Volvo have a ultramodern truck design and are increasing market share on the back of it. At the same time, Scania are also improving share on the back of innovative systems alongside the truck, and with an all new ultramodern truck design to come in the next couple of years.
What we can be certain of is the quality of this new set of models from Mercedes Benz. The mitigating factor will be how well it is presented to the truck buying public and how well resourced and supported the trucks are when they hit the roads.