“Big or small: what counts is the strength of the idea!”
With partners from the industry, Daimler Trucks is developing the systems required for automated driving. To do this, Frank Hermes connects closely with worldwide suppliers. The Global Lead Buyer is an expert on automated driving in Daimler Trucks & Buses Procurement and explains in an interview why suppliers will play a decisive role in the success of automated driving.
Mr Hermes: With the Freightliner Inspiration Truck in Nevada, USA, and a Mercedes-Benz Actros in Germany, Daimler Trucks has already demonstrated its expertise in automated driving – where do we want to go in this regard?
Hermes: There are five levels in automated driving. At the moment we are in stage one with a large number of driver assistance systems. Currently, we are working on developing more levels of automated driving relatively quickly. Our goal: automated driving on certain routes, such as the highway, for example.
That’s the product or developer perspective – where do you come into play as a buyer?
The procurement department also likes to look to the future (laughs). Joking aside. Together with our colleagues from Daimler Trucks Development and our supplier partners, we’re looking at how we can achieve our future goals. That’s why my colleagues and I are engaged in a procurement market study to find out who could support us in fully automated driving.
What are we looking for in the fully automated truck of the future?
There are many topics here: For example, artificial intelligence, machine learning, object recognition, optimal trajectory calculation. Our research extends across the areas of hardware and software relevant to automated driving. We ask ourselves questions such as: What do we need in terms of components? And how do we build the artificial intelligence that will steer the truck – fully automated – over the roads of the future? Because there is a lot of “computing power” needed there.
You’ll have to explain that in more detail.
Brake and steering actuators would be the challenge on the hardware side. The software aspect is about how the vehicle interacts — in other words: when is automated steering and braking used?
Then the topic of connectivity. Here we need communication units to transmit vehicle data and position. And of course the whole thing must meet the most stringent criteria in terms of cyber security.
Last but not least: The hardware power. There we have processor, memory and the connections of the sensors. Finally, on the software side, the truck has to capture the lanes ahead topographically, calculate the driving strategy, detect objects, etc. The challenge especially lies in the object detection and classification.
In what way?
First of all, Daimler Trucks has always strived to build the best and the safest trucks in the world. Cutting-edge sensor technology will help us with that in the future. The keyword here is “LiDAR” — light detection and ranging. This is a method of optical distance and velocity measurement akin to the radar. Rather than the radio waves used in the radar, laser beams are employed. In the future of automated driving, this will play a crucial role in identifying obstacles and accurately mapping the environment.
And at the moment, on the topic of LiDAR it’s still an open contest as to which technology will come out on top in the future. In purchasing we are keeping a very close eye on that.
What kind of suppliers did you come across in your procurement market study?
There are many new players besides the established ones. Especially in the case of software solutions. We are looking at everything here — from the Chinese start-up to the large mainstream corporation. Extremely exciting and promising, what’s going on there. For example, there are suppliers who come from the consumer sector. They have previously produced smartphones or computer and graphics chips and are now moving towards the automotive industry.
And what’s the next step?
We continue to seek out the best technology partners who support our vision of fully automated driving. It does not matter if the name is big or small. What counts is the strength of the idea and the technology!