Combining its efforts from five divisions, Daimler Trucks is rolling out an eMobility unit. The idea behind the unit is to speed up the creation of battery-powered engines for use in vehicles such as buses and trucks, Financial Times reported.
“[The group] will soon be defining the strategy for everything from electrical components to completely electric vehicles for all brands and all business divisions, while also working to create a single global electric architecture,” Daimler said. “We aim to take the leading role in the field of electric-powered trucks and buses.”
Gesa Reimelt, who heads up eDrive Mercedes-Benz for passenger cars, will spearhead the unit. Five truck brands will be included in the unit – Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner, Fuso, Western Star and BharatBenz. Overall, Daimler said the unit would spend 2.5 billion euros on development in 2018 and 2019. In addition, the company said that 500 million euros will be dedicated to investments in connectivity, electrification and autonomous driving.
The news comes as officials at the American Trucking Association (ATA) have said that at this point, they are not actually looking to replace their drivers so much as supplement them. Spokesman Sean McNally told NBC News that the group expects to see drivers remain onboard most trucks “as a failsafe” for the foreseeable future. Airplanes, he said, are more or less automated enough to fly, launch and land themselves — but we keep pilots on board as a failsafe.
For its part, Daimler AG’s Freightliner brand’s autonomous prototype, the 18-wheel Inspiration model, is designed to have a backup “operator” behind the wheel. However, officials at Freightliner and other manufacturers — along with several trucking companies — have stated that their hope is to go fully driverless as soon as possible. The concern isn’t so much about preparing the technology as it is trying to convince the public that it’s safe to share the road with 70,000 semi-trucks that are without human pilots.