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Mercedes-Benz Actros truck gains semi-autonomous driver assists

It also swaps out its side mirrors in favor of cameras.

Mercedes-Benz Actros
Mercedes-Benz Trucks

You might have tuned them out, but trucks are all around us, moving all manner of goods so that the wheels of capitalism can keep on rollin'. Thus, any improvements to the trucking industry can have widespread benefit, which is why I think the new Mercedes-Benz Actros is pretty boss.

Unveiled at the IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in Hanover, Germany this week, the new Actros will live as the flagship for Mercedes-Benz Trucks, showcasing the best in-truck tech that parent company Daimler has to offer. Much of it you've likely seen before on passenger cars, but not on trucks.

The biggest update to the Actros is the addition of Mercedes-Benz's Active Drive Assist system. It permits low-level semi-autonomy whereby the truck itself is capable of accelerating, braking and steering in certain circumstances. It will work at all speeds, so it has stop-and-go functionality, but Mercedes-Benz is keen to remind drivers that the human behind the wheel must maintain vigilance. It relies on both radar and camera systems, like many current driver-assist systems in passenger cars.

Mercedes-Benz Actros

Sadly, you're not about to see the Actros on US roads, but that doesn't mean our primitive truck tech won't be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century eventually, as well.

Mercedes-Benz Trucks

Active Drive Assist also works in conjunction with an improved version of Benz's Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC) system. Essentially GPS-based cruise control, PPC reads the topography of the road ahead and is capable of adjusting the truck's speed or its current gear in order to maximize fuel economy. Mercedes-Benz estimates that Actros drivers will see up to 5 percent lower fuel costs on rural routes -- but it bears mentioning that the truck's improved aerodynamics also factor into that estimation.

A big chunk of the Actros' improved aero comes from the new MirrorCam system. As the name suggests, it ditches traditional side mirrors in favor of one camera mounted on each door. The cameras beam images to 15-inch displays on the A-pillars. Not only can it work as a highfalutin' side mirror, it can also be used to help drivers reverse trailers, and the screens can be turned on if a sleeping driver thinks somebody is trying to jack their fuel.

The new Actros also features the fifth generation of Mercedes-Benz's Active Brake Assist autobrake system. Now relying on both cameras and radar, it can detect potential collisions from either vehicles or pedestrians, warning the driver or bringing the truck to a stop depending on the severity. It'll work at speeds up to 31 mph, and once the truck grinds to a halt, the system applies the parking brake to prevent further movement.

The Actros' new tech isn't limited to stuff that's buried away behind the body. The driver gets a number of creature-comfort upgrades, as well. The dashboard now sports two screens that shows the status of its driver-assist systems, as well as all the readouts you'd find on a traditional dashboard, but with a Mercedes-flavored twist. Heck, it even has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto now, to help reduce distraction.

The new Mercedes-Benz Actros will be delivered to customers starting next spring, but if you're a European logistics company hell-bent on having some brand-new trucks as fast as possible, the order books are already open.