Mercedes demonstrates driverless snow-clearing trucks at Frankfurt Airport

Mercedes has demonstrated a driverless truck, called Arocs, at Frankfurt Airport. The world’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturer says the vehicle is the result of specific customer requirements.

Daimler, parent company of Mercedes, says it the demonstration, which involved four trucks, is an “unprecedented test” which shows another potential solution for the future use of automated commercial vehicles.

Following the successful demonstration of the innovative Highway Pilot and Highway Pilot Connect systems, the latter making truck platooning possible, the company says the self-driving, snow-clearing truck presentation is “another development step forward” on the road to the fully connected and autonomous commercial vehicle. 

On the site of the former Pferdsfeld airbase, Daimler showed the practical application of automated snow removal operations at airports based on Frankfurt Airport’s specifications.

Martin Daum, the Daimler board member responsible for Daimler Trucks, says: “We are not just talking about new technologies, we are bringing them onto the road.

“Step by step we are developing our very latest assistance systems even further – with a view to automated driving. We are currently working on the implementation of two specific use cases: Firstly automated driving in quite normal traffic on motorways – with the clear aim of relieving driver workload and significantly improving safety.

“And secondly driverless operation in enclosed areas to significantly improve productivity. With today’s demonstration of automated snow clearance on an airfield, we are once more reinforcing our claim to technological leadership.”

Under the project name “Automated Airfield Ground Maintenance”, four Mercedes-Benz Arocs tractor units demonstrated automated airfield clearing in a remote-controlled convoy.

Daimler says the benefits are obvious: Airfield clearances are hard to predict and thus difficult to plan, especially in winter.

This makes snow removal units operated with pinpoint precision by a single vehicle operator to remove snow from runways especially crucial when extreme weather strikes without warning during the winter months, and they require no additional vehicle and staff scheduling.

The project was established in close cooperation between Lab1886, the Daimler innovation incubator, Daimler Trucks and Fraport.

Lab1886 actively supports the transformation of Daimler from an automotive manufacturer to a mobility provider, and works closely with the Daimler CASE initiative, which makes autonomous and connected electric vehicles an integral part of the corporate strategy of Daimler.

CASE stands for the fields of connectivity (Connected), autonomous driving (Autonomous), flexible use (Shared and Services) and electric powertrains (Electric).

Susanne Hahn, head of Lab1886, says: “The mission of Lab1886 is to develop new innovative business models for Daimler. The Fraport project is a great example in this regard. It shows how we bring together innovations with specific customer needs to develop new markets.

“As one of the first airports worldwide, we are pleased to be contributing our know-how to this innovative project.

“It enables us to examine autonomous control of heavy winter service equipment in the especially challenging winter conditions of an airport.”

Mathias Dudek, head of infrastructural facility management at Fraport, says: “We hope to obtain findings that will help us to plan the future deployment of equipment even more precisely and efficiently under sudden wintry conditions. Our commitment once again underlines the role of Fraport as an innovation driver in a wide range of areas.”

Based in Frankfurt/Main, Fraport operates one of the world’s largest air traffic hubs. The objective of the joint testing activities is the implementation of state-of-the-art telematics-based vehicle control technology in areas not accessible to the public.

This is one of the key aspects in which the new application differs from the technology milestones in the area of autonomous driving developed and realized for practical testing by Daimler to date.

The Highway Pilot and the Highway Pilot Connect system presented for platooning are designed for use on public roads.

In addition to a comprehensive set of requirements on automated operating machines, Fraport also supplies the snow removal equipment for this unparalleled test.

Among the equipment are four so-called sweeper blowers of the kind already in operation today as semitrailers towed by still conventional Mercedes-Benz tractor units.

 

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