Trucks Use GPS To Anticipate Hills, Save Fuel

Daimler has debuted a new speed control system on their long-haul trucks that uses GPS data to automatically choose the right gear for going up or down a hill.

Available on the Mercedes-Benz Actros, Predictive Power Control takes advantage of topographic data programmed into the truck’s GPS in order to properly shift the truck’s 12-speed automatic transmission on grades. It can also activate the Actros’ “EcoRoll” function, which lets the truck coast in neutral when its safe to do so. Fitted to a truck that’s hauling a heavy load over moderately hilly terrain, it promises a three percent improvement in fuel economy.

According to Daimler, such fuel savings “could only be matched by an extremely motivated truck driver with an exceptional level of concentration,” plus an uncanny knowledge of the road ahead. If an Actros is taking the road less traveled, Predictive Power Control will most likely come out ahead.

If a truck with predictive cruise control sounds familiar, that’s because Daimler’s Freightliner division already released a similar setup in the US back in 2009. Instead of shifting gears for the driver, however, Freightliner’s RunSmart only could control the truck’s throttle. Daimler built on that technology to create the system that’s now available on the Actros. Similarly, in 2001 Toyota debuted NAVI.AI-Shift, a system that uses GPS data to predict hills and curves to best select a gear.

On the Actros, Predictive Power Control not only saves fuel but makes it easier for a driver to do his or her job. If there’s a steep downhill grade ahead, the truck will single or double downshift as soon as its appropriate to do so. Of course, manual controls are always available to the driver for maximum control.

The new Actros replaces the existing line of Actros trucks, which debuted in 1995. They’re not sold in the US, and an extremely rare sight in North America.