It will now be possible to buy a truck with no mirrors on the Australian market, as Mercedes Benz introduce Mirrorcam on the Actros model truck now on sale. This release also sees the return of the Actros name which was not used when the current generation of Mercedes Benz heavy duty trucks was introduced back in 2016.
The new technology unveiled in Europe in late 2018 has made it to the Australia market after the new Actros was unveiled with cameras instead of mirrors at the Brisbane Truck Show in May 2019. Diesel News has had the chance to take a drive in the odd-looking prime mover to experience the state-of-the-art first hand.
Although the very obvious lack of mirrors on the outside of the truck is the headline in this story, it is also the fact that this new design is a complete update of the electronics in the vehicle with the introduction of the ‘multimedia cockpit’ with two large touchscreens one directly in front of the driver and the other to the left in a wraparound style. With this update in the electronics in the truck comes a number of new and updated features.
This new Actros is the first road-registered vehicle of any kind in the country with MirrorCam, which is both a fuel-saving measure and vision-improving safety feature. No cars available in Australia feature this technology as yet.
“We are proud to lead the pack and offer our customers another innovation that is not available on any other truck,” says Daniel Whitehead, Daimler Truck and Bus Australia Pacific President and CEO. “The remarkable suite of new technology in the new Actros means the best cab-over truck available in Australia is now even better.”
This kind of technology has been talked about over the years and European truck manufacturers have included mirrorcam technology in concept trucks at truck shows for quite some time. In fact, Diesel News tested out a mirrorcam on a Japanese truck test track in a Hino truck 15 years ago.
Somehow these concepts never made it through to a production truck until now. The dam has probably burst so we can expect very similar technologies to flow out from Benz’s competitors over the next few years.
The MirrorCam system is an optional one and standard mirrors are available. The system captures vision from cameras on aerodynamic wings and displays it on screens mounted on the A-pillars in the cabin.
Why now? Changes in European legislation were needed to allow a camera to replace a mirror on a vehicle and this new law was finally enacted in the lead up to the global launch of this concept in September 2018. Fortunately, in Australia new legislation was not needed, a simple approval was needed to amend the regulations around this kind of equipment.
The first question which comes to mind is whether the driver can adapt to this new way of checking on things behind the prime mover on the road. The simple answer to this question is yes, and very quickly. On first examination there is a very familiar view, a main image at the top looking down the side of the truck and a second, smaller ;’spotter-style’ view at the bottom.
It is odd to be looking at a screen inside the cabin and having both door windows completely free from any obstruction. Before actually driving the truck on the road and having the concept explained most people would think it may take a while to get used to. In fact, even smart functions like the camera image following the rear of the trailer as it goes around a tight bend become familiar in a few minutes.
Then there are the indicative lines on the screen showing the driver where the rear of the truck is and showing other distances behind the prime mover on screen. It all sounds a bit confusing and likely to create issues as the driver gets used to the whole idea.
In fact, on the test drive Diesel News undertook, it was a seamless transition to mirrorless. By the second intersection using the screens became second nature and being always able to see the rear corner of the trailer seemed completely normal.
Mirrorcam simply cuts down on the driver rocking forward and back in their seat to get the required view in the mirror. Instead the computer controlling the camera system adapts the visible view to suit the driver. The solution seems so intuitive the driver never needs to think about it again.
If there is any confusion, it is probably when approaching the truck for the first time. As you approach, it is just a truck and then the mind is alerted to the fact something isn’t right here. It takes a few moments to realise it is simply the fact the are no mirrors on the side of the truck, its silhouette has changed. The camera themselves are quite small in comparison and don’t stick out anything like as far as some mirror arrays. They are about the size of small car wing mirrors.