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  • Writer's pictureNATALIA SOUSA

Automated Trucks for Sugar Cane Harvesting.

Automated Mercedes-Benz trucks are being used in the Brazilian sugar cane harvest since 2019. Mercedes-Benz do Brasil has configured the Mercedes-Benz Axor specifically for automated harvesting operations as part of a development partnership with the Brazilian agricultural technology manufacturer Grunner. By the end of this year, Mercedes-Benz do Brasil will have already delivered a total of around 640 vehicles to Grunner for modification. Of these, around 580 vehicles will already be in customer hands.

The vehicle independently takes over speed and distance control as well as longitudinal and lateral guidance. Although the driver retains control of the truck at all times, his hands do not have to be permanently on the steering wheel. In addition to the automated driving functions, the Axor has an additional front axle, extended tyre spacing, so-called "high flotation" tyres for agricultural use and antennas to receive satellite signals.

Prior to the agiculutural work the user plans their harvesting route, which is determined beforehand on the computer, accurate to within a centimetre. The automated journey is controlled via cruise control, GPS and geo-referencing. The Axor works in conjunction with a sugar cane harvester, which also drives automatically and conveys the harvested sugar cane directly into the truck body. The average speed is around six kilometers per hour. Once filling of the Axor is complete, the driver takes over the truck again for goods handling.

Compared with a conventional tractor unit, significant advantages can be achieved in fuel consumption, lubricant consumption, and maintenance and servicing costs. Precise preset routing also increases productivity: a vehicle can harvest around twice the amount simultaneously thanks to higher average operating speeds.

The automated Mercedes-Benz Axors with Grunner's technology are tailor-made for their purpose: With technology adapted explicitly to harvesting work, they are not part of Daimler Truck's dual strategy on autonomous driving.

Through its independent subsidiary Torc Robotics, Daimler Truck is driving the development of SAE Level 4 autonomous trucking in the United States. The solution developed from this partnership is specialized and designed to handle traffic between distribution centres on highways. Daimler Truck is working with Waymo. The goal: to combine Waymo's autonomous driving technology with the Freightliner Cascadia, which is expected to be available in the U.S. in the coming years.

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