Mercedes-Benz Arocs trucks are an autonomous means to an end: The industrial vehicles can work without drivers, and without requiring a bevy of expensive sensors equipped on the truck itself. The service vehicles work by following the leader, along GPS mapped routes, providing high accuracy from a lead vehicle with control over the followers.
The Arocs version of autonomous transportation also builds emergency safety measures into each, allowing for hazard management. It's designed for circumscribed areas, too, which make it more practical to achieve in the near-term vs. ambitious self-driving projects like free driving on real-world roads.
There Arocs in the video are networked via encrypted radio transmission, with a full control panel in the lead vehicle. Each truck is interchangeable, meaning they can all act as the lead in a pinch, and each follows not only the leader but a strictly laid out and mapped path to coordinate their efforts, which in this case focus on show removal at an airfield.
There are a range of truck-based operations that involve covering a pre-defined route repeatedly in essentially the same fashion over and over, with only minor allowances needed for basic safety, like being able to identify and stop if a hazard is in the way. You can imagine luggage carts, waste disposal, on-campus mail delivery and more using similar setups, as well as industrial scale grass cutters and other landscaping vehicles.
- This article originally appeared on TechCrunch.