Depending on the point of view, you might think this is genuinly awesome or freakishly scary since we’re talking about fully autonomous machinery weighing 27 tons, each fitted with a 26-foot blade plow.
Mercedes-Benz is probably well aware of that because they specifically emphasize the robot trucks have only been designed for airport use. They’re called “Automated Airfield Ground Maintenance” vehicles, or AAGMs for short, and even when driving themselves there’s still a a single human controller directing the operation. The vehicles are Mercedes-Benz Arocs heavy-duty trucks, complete with all-wheel drive and a 26 feet wide plow – at the rear there’s a sweeper that’s pulled on a trailer, to take care of residual snow, with the entire rig being 75 feet long and weighing in at 27 tons.
Mercedes has already constructed four such giants, fitted with dual GPS tracking systems, as well as an electronic brain called Remote Truck Interface. This allows a sole operator to control vehicle functions and see data, complimented by vehicle-to-vehicle communication so each vehicle knows what the other is doing. The software allows for the designation of a leader, directing the other trucks through V2V communication. The company is currently testing the rigs at a former German airbase not far from Frankfurt, with the help of airport management company Fraport AG – with an aim to implement them in regular operation to clear airports quicker, and with considerably less manpower.