06 October 2019 09:35
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Driving with two trailers requires that one clear rule be followed: stay away from the inside of the bend! The wheels on the last three axles make a tight turn, and you don’t want to end up in a heap of snow or a ditch with them. “Complete concentration, there’s no other way. Especially now, when two semi-trailers are the standard configuration,” says Elias Salonen. It’s a good thing that the new Actros comes with a whole host of innovations that make life easier for the driver.
Elias is driving the new Actros before the launch of the series as part of the customer testing programme. The 20-year-old is a driver at Vähälä, his family’s company. Vähälä covers around 900 kilometres per day in the new Actros – initially around 60 kilometres northwards carrying production parts, then back to the terminal in Jyväskylä carrying pulp, and finally around 380 kilometres carrying another load back to the port in Hanko. From there, it’s on to Helsinki and back with DB Schenker packages. A job for two to three drivers.
“In addition to fuel efficiency, reliability is also very important for us, of course, especially during our long winters,” says Elias. Safety is also a key issue at Vähälä. This is good for customers, reliability and drivers. Xenon lights, for example, or new nitrogen-filled winter tyres every November for all the trucks in the fleet are a matter of course at Vähälä.
Elias: “For us drivers, safety also means that all vehicles are equipped with assistance systems, such as Predictive Powertrain Control. Arrival times can be better planned if the system is used wherever road conditions allow.” It makes no sense for Elias and his colleagues to save a few minutes for a few hundred kilometres. They would not be expected yet. The consequence is increased safety on the roads thanks to calmer driving, reduced fuel consumption and relaxed drivers. “My day is lot more enjoyable when I can listen to music while on the road and savour the stunning Finnish landscape through my windscreen than when I’m getting stressed about counterproductive overtaking,” says Elias.
In the new Actros, cruise control and transmission control now use even more precise digital road maps, containing data relating to topography, the course of the road, the geometric form of junctions and roundabouts and traffic signs. For example, the latest generation of Predictive Powertrain Control now optimises driving on types of roads where the use of cruise control was previously not recommended.
The Actros also has another groundbreaking safety feature. Active Drive Assist slows the vehicle down automatically, in the case of heavy traffic for example, and then accelerates it again. If necessary, it also makes corrective steering movements if the vehicle unintentionally threatens to leave the lane. This ensures increased safety and even more relaxed driving. “Active Drive Assist is really great. Depending on the traffic conditions, the vehicle slows down and accelerates again, and the steering wheel makes steering movements in the driver’s own hands if the vehicle gets too close to the edge of the lane. It’s an amazing system.”
There is also the latest generation of the Active Brake Assist 5 emergency braking system, which provides even better support to drivers in the case of rear-end collisions or imminent collisions with pedestrians, including through the use of automatic emergency braking if necessary.
Elias Salonen is impressed not just by the assistance systems. He also likes how the information is clearly displayed in the new Multimedia Cockpit. “I can see how fast the vehicle in front of me is going and what the distance between us is. The digital screen tells me at what speed I should go through the roundabout up ahead and how far away it is. That’s really cool.”
Roundabouts are a situation where Elias particularly appreciates the value of MirrorCam. The displays are completely within his field of vision. There are no mirrors concealing his view forwards and to the side. The camera image pans inside the bend, and in the wide-angle view on the display he has a good view of the back of the second trailer even through the bends. “I can see a lot more clearly what’s going on around the trailers,” says Elias, who is looking forward to more new Actros. “Once you’ve experienced this, you can’t imagine driving any other way.”
Photos: Christoph Börries
Video: Martin Schneider-Lau