The new Freightliner Cascadia: future is now

Whenever I’m driving down the road, I can’t help but do a little truckspotting –  trying to guess an approaching truck’s make by the shape of its radiator grill. I’m pretty good at it, and can usually beat anyone else in the car.

But two years ago, a new grill design appeared on the road that stumped my passengers. Today, it’s popping up all over North America.

It’s the new Cascadia, by Freightliner. I recognized it right away – and proudly – because I’m on the team that designed and delivered the very first model back in 2017. I can tell you that we loaded it then with every innovation we could think of to make it even safer, more fuel-efficient and even more connected. Our work has paid off: over 100,000 new Cascadias will soon be rolling across North America.

Now, did we pat ourselves on the back at Freightliner and relax after creating this industry-leading truck? For a day, maybe. But then we got right back to making the best even better. We’re kind of relentless that way.

The new Cascadia with Model Year 2020 Enhancements

Today, we’re thrilled to present an even better truck – the new Cascadia with model year 2020 enhancements! We’ve made numerous improvements, some are industry firsts and others are more subtle, that make the new Cascadia even safer, more efficient, and better connected. It will also be the first production truck ever on the road in North America with Level 2 automation. Wondering what that means? Read on!

Safety Is Above All

“Safety is above all” we always say at Freightliner, and the new Cascadia is loaded with multiple safety enhancements that can help every driver mitigate the chance for error.

Today, our proprietary Active Brake Assist system warns the driver and can apply partial and then full emergency braking on both stationary and moving objects. By combining a camera with the radar, the system is now able to detect, warn and perform full emergency braking on pedestrians. If a pedestrian crosses the path of the new Cascadia, Active Brake Assist delivers an audible alert and warning brake for the driver. If no action is taken, the truck goes into full emergency braking. We’re the only truck maker to provide this.

We also provide Adaptive Cruise Control down to zero miles per hour. I have this on my car and it’s awesome. When the vehicle in front stops, the new Cascadia does too, and holds indefinitely. If the forward vehicle moves within two seconds, the truck will follow at a safe distance.

Helping the Driver

It’s hard work, driving a truck, so we’re supporting drivers with even more enhancements: automatic wipers and headlights, intelligent high-beam, and traffic sign display – which posts the current speed limit right in the instrument cluster. And speaking of instrument cluster, our new optional 12” digital display provides the driver with improved graphics, access to trip information, and a wide range of vehicle diagnostics and key operating parameters. This new instrument cluster is offered with a 10” touch screen display in the b-panel of the dash which enables ability to host third party apps in the future. Both displays are easily controlled by buttons on the steering wheel.

Another innovation is the Side Guard Assist. It can detect objects like a pedestrian or a cyclist who is located on the passenger side of the truck. Then the Side Guard Assist, which covers the blind spot, informs the driver with an audible and visual warning in order to take action. Good for the driver and good for you.

Lane Keep Assist uses micro-steering movements to keep the new Cascadia centered in its detected lane. If the truck passes the lane without a turn signal, the system alerts the driver, along with a visual warning. If no action is taken, Lane Departure Protection will counter-steer the truck back into its lane.

And that brings us to:

Level 2 Automation

Automation in transportation is coming. Level 5 is a fully-automated truck (we’re a long ways from that). Level 2 is partially automated, an advanced driver assistance system – the driver’s hands remain on the wheel and attentive, while the system enhances not only their safety, but yours and mine as well.

With its ability to assist in both forward and lateral directions, the new Cascadia is the first North American truck with Level 2 automation.

We’re proud to deliver this. And we’ll continue to pioneer technologies across the automated vehicle spectrum that make roads safer, help trucking companies boost their productivity, and support the driver experience. “But we’ll only deliver them when the market is ready,” says our senior engineer Wilfried Achenbach, “and just in time: not too early, not too late, and only after complete testing and validation.”

Safety first.

And efficiency a close second

The new Cascadia with model year 2020 enhancements continues our decade-long run of greater fuel efficiency savings. In fact, since we launched the first Cascadia in 2007, our collective improvements have now improved fuel efficiency by 35 percent!

As always, it comes from a relentless refinement of subtle but significant elements in aerodynamics, powertrain, and system intelligence.

Standard, Aero, or AeroX?

Aerodynamically, we’ve streamlined the new Cascadia yet again by covering the tow hook slots to reduce air entering the front of the vehicle and adding an A-Pillar deflector to further smooth air flow. That’s our Standard package.

Our Aero design trims the truck even more with chassis fairing skirts that restrict side airflow under the vehicle, and side extender seals which smooth airflow from the cab to the side extenders.

And for our most fuel-efficient customers, we’ve taken Aero to the max with a half-dozen more fuel efficiency enhancements:

  • Optimized front bumper that reduces airflow under the vehicle.
  • Aerodynamic Height Control that, at highway speeds, lowers the truck an inch/20mm for more aerodynamic efficiency.
  • Optimized roof fairing deflectors out to the twenty-four inch side extenders, so air flows more smoothly between the tractor and the trailer.
  • New, flexible front wheel well closeouts and drive wheel fairing to reduce the space between the tires and vehicle for better airflow.
  • Michelin X Line D+ Energy Tires – exclusive to the new Cascadia – which roll with less resistance and greater fuel efficiency.

And that’s not all.

Power to the Train

The new Cascadia comes with the DT12 automated manual transmission equipped with Intelligent Powertrain Management 6, our proprietary predictive cruise control, which delivers:

  • Engine Load Balancing, which holds the engine at a constant torque over small, steady inclines which the driver might perceive as flat – to reduce unnecessary engine load.
  • Increased Map Coverage of North America’s major highways and interstates to help drivers – and their teams – find the most efficient routes to their next destination.

Predictive Adaptive Cruise Control, to better use kinetic energy and minimize brake usage.

A Rolling Hub of Connectivity

Because connectivity makes it all work together. This truck is alert all the time, gathering data, sending data, for everyone’s benefit.

Three enhancements make that connection even stronger:

  • Detroit Connect Remote Updates now provides Firmware-Over-the-Air updates, so a fleet manager can update software on a truck – or trucks – from a single location, at the same time, without requiring the working vehicles to stop at a service center. Your phone doesn’t have to go back to the store for an update when it needs one. Neither does the new Cascadia.
  • Detroit Connect Analytics, which provides fuel economy analysis and safety reporting, will be updated with new safety features enabled by Detroit Assurance 5.0.
  • And our Detroit Connect platform links wirelessly with an in-cab device via Bluetooth, allowing hours of service data to be delivered to Detroit Connect-authorized Electronic Logging Device apps developed by our customers, as well as Telematics Service Providers.

A connected truck is a smarter truck.

The new Cascadia

It’s also safer, more efficient, and now – thanks to Freightliner’s relentless innovation – the first North American truck with Level 2 automation. I feel better driving down the road, surrounded by all those trucks. And I can’t wait to spot my first new Cascadia with model year 2020 enhancements.

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Kary Schaefer is General Manager of Product Marketing & Strategy at Daimler Trucks North America. When she’s not talking trucks, she enjoys riding her bike or hiking in the mountains near her home in Oregon.