Mirrorless Mercedes Benz Actros – Is it a good thing?
The introduction today of the latest Mercedes Benz Actros heralds a new revolution in road transport technology, being the first OEM to offer a road registered mirrorless vehicle. Instead of conventional mirrors, sleek aero cab mounted fins house what ‘Benz have aptly named “MirrorCam” which they claim aids fuel saving and vision. Like a television infomercial… “But there is more…” The new Actros also boasts dual customisable tablet screens instead of a traditional dash board along a with host of next generation features.
According to Mercedes-Benz by removing the traditional side mirrors and replacing them with small wings featuring integrated cameras brings a substantial aerodynamic advantage and help save fuel.
The absence of the side mirror does open up a wider range of vision out the door windows, however in might be argued that the introduction of a large screen on the A-pillar significantly impedes vision in another area.
The footage from the cameras is shown on 15-inch screens that are mounted in the cabin on the inside surface of the A-pillars. With the screens so close to the position of traditional mirrors, it does not take drivers long to adapt.
The camera is also able to deliver improved rear vision at night and also in the rain.
Mercedes Benz claim the MirrorCam wings do not protrude out as far as the traditional mirrors and are higher up on the cab, making them less prone to impact, we’ll see how that goes. But, good news for operators, they can also flex in order to minimises damage. In the event they are damaged, the cost to replace MirrorCam is no more than replacing a traditional side mirror.
Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC)
The new PPC improves the way the engines and the fully automated transmissions are controlled in order to save fuel, by adding anticipation technology to the fuel saving mix.
PPC uses topographical information, including pre-mapped three-dimensional GPS data, to enable the truck to make the best, and most economical, choice of throttle application and gear selection.
On steep hills, ahead of a hilltop, coasting down a hill, in dips or on the flat, PPC recognises impending driving situations in good time and takes anticipatory action. This could mean holding on to a gear, rather than changing up, just before the crest of the hill, or briefly selecting neutral to save fuel in the appropriate conditions.
The system already contains data for Australia’s A and B roads and many more. Additionally, the system learns the routes the truck travels on. PPC can be used in conjunction with cruise control at speeds between 25km/h and 100km/h.
While it’s all good news on the bells and whistles front, hardware wise, the new Actros relies on the same engine family it introduced back in 2016. Is that a god thing only time will tell, but so far, the current engine has proven to be one of the more economical engine options on the market. Furthermore, the reliability of these engines well proven.
Active Brake Assist 5
The new Actros also sees the introduction of the latest generation of standard safety technology with Active Brake Assist 5. This system uses a radar and camera that work together to try and prevent avoidable collisions. The news with ABA 5 is that it can now bring the truck to a complete halt when it detects moving pedestrians. It can also stop completely for moving or stationary vehicles when the driver may be distracted, something that is proven to save lives and reduce road trauma. Given the title Autonomous Emergency Braking by safety authorities, this technology is the easiest way to avoid or reduce the impact of collisions including heavy vehicles.
The new Actros also comes with Lane Keeping Assist, which alerts the driver if the truck drifts out the lane without the indicator on, Attention Assist which alerts the driver who is beginning to drive in a fatigue-affected manner. A very popular part of the safety technology suite is Proximity Control Assist; an adaptive cruise control function that can modulate the speed of the truck in heavy traffic, even when the traffic grinds to a halt.
Interactive MultiMedia Cockpit
The new Actros introduces the MultiMedia Cockpit, which features two large flat panel screens on the dashboard.
Available in 10 and 12-inch sizes, these high resolution screens display information in a clear and easy-to-read format. One screen sits beyond the steering wheel and replaces a traditional instrument cluster with a clearly arranged presentation of vehicle data and operating status. It can be controlled by the new steering wheel-mounted Touch Control Buttons.
The left display is a touchscreen unit and can be used to control more features and examine more information. Although it brings the benefit of touch control, there is also a row of dedicated traditional buttons below the screen to control high-use functions including volume and temperature.
Additionally, this centre screen has been designed to run third-party apps that customers may wish to use, such as non-manufacturer telemetry systems, which would be certified through MB Trucks App Portal. Local validation for this function is currently underway.
The range starts off with the 8-litre OM 936, which features one or two turbochargers depending on the model (using asymmetrical turbo technology) and high pressure fuel injection. This engine is available with 300hp to 350hp depending on the application.
It then goes to the OM 470 11-litre, which uses a single asymmetrical turbocharger and X-Pulse variable high pressure injection. This engine uses a higher compression ratio and delivers higher torque at lower engine revs. This unit ranges from 400hp to 460hp
For those hitting the highway with heavier loads, the OM 471 13-litre and OM 473 16-litre will take care of the job. The 13-litre unit output ranges from 510hp to 530hp, while the 16-litre is rated between 580hp and 630hp. All engines use one-piece steel pistons instead of aluminium and have reinforced conrods.
The Mercedes-Benz asymmetric turbocharger improves performance at low engine speeds. The asymmetric turbo design, with its fixed turbine geometry, varies the intake flow with a simple valve. This turbocharger design features less moving parts than a variable geometry turbocharger. The new Mercedes-Benz range uses Selective Catalytic Reduction with AdBlue fluid, Exhaust Gas Recirculation and a Diesel Particulate Filter.
The new Actros continues to use the PowerShift 3 Automated Manual Transmission units that were introduced locally in 2016. These include 8-speed, 12-speed and 16-speed options.
The fully-automated PowerShift 3 transmission changes 20 per cent faster than the previous generation unit, but not as quick as the new ZF Traxon transmisisons. A clever crawl function, similar to urge-to-move in an Eaton box, allows the vehicle to start easing forward when the transmission is in Drive and when the accelerator pedal is not being pressed. Like most current European sourced vehicles the gear lever control is mounted on the right-hand stalk, along with controls for the engine brake function.
The new Actros model line-up is largely unchanged and includes 6×4 and 4×2 prime movers, 4×2, 6×2, and 6×4 rigids and AWD rigids in 4×4, 6×6 and 8×8 variants.
Mercedes-Benz Financial is also able to offer customers a range of financial truck ownership solutions including a popular program called Agility Guaranteed Buy-Back. It guarantees the future value of the truck based on the selected term and kilometer allowance and means that when the agreement comes to end the customer has the option to trade-in, retain or return the truck to Mercedes-Benz Finance at the guaranteed future value amount.
Service plans, which were introduced in Australia by Mercedes-Benz Trucks back in 1979, give customers the assurance that their vehicles are serviced by factory-trained technicians using genuine parts and lubricants in order to remain in top condition.
Now Mercedes-Benz is launching the new Actros with a complimentary Bets Basic service plan that applies for five years or 500,000km, whichever comes first. You can find all the details, including exclusions, at the Mercedes-Benz Trucks website. While this offer is available, customers have the option of upgrading to the Complete Service Plan at a reduced rate.
To keep the truck rolling along how it should Mercedes-Benz offers complimentary training to enable drivers to best realise the lowest cost of ownership, by achieving optimum performance and maximum safety. The TruckTraining program has proven popular among customers of the existing Actros.
Locally-developed telematics continues to flow on for the new Actros. This system enables the owner to view information such as vehicle location, driver behaviour, engine status, service alerts and accident alerts in real time. It can be set-up with ‘geo fencing’ to set ‘go and no-go’ zones or to send an alert when the truck has reached a certain distance from its location (such as a depot). In addition to detailed automated reporting, the system is also able to retain three months of data when not in GSM coverage and provide instant alerts via email or SMS collisions or if the vehicle is moved without ignition.
Images supplied by Mercedes-Benz