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May 19, 2017 10:15 AM, EDT
Daimler Trucks North America Opens $18.7 Million Truck Proving Grounds
Site to Test Connected Vehicles, Platoon Trucks, Autonomous Vehicles
Daimler Trucks North America
MADRAS, Ore. — Daimler Trucks North America opened its $18.7 million High Desert Proving Grounds here May 18. It will enable the parent of Freightliner and Western Star Trucks to do more broad-based vehicle testing not far from its Portland headquarters.

The 31,400-square-foot building will employ 40 people, and trucks will be put through their paces on a 3.5-mile test track with nine surfaces.

Groundbreaking for the facility was April 2016.

Roger Nielsen, DTNA’s president since April 1, opened the facility before 100 people — employees, Madras residents and government officials and news media.

Nielsen by Jonathan S. Reiskin/TT

Nielsen said his company will include tests of connected vehicles, platoon trucks and autonomous vehicles.

“This is truly a place to bring products to the market,” he said.

The HDPG is an expansion of Daimler’s presence here. The company has conducted testing of trucks and buses on a limited basis on an adjacent site since the early 1980s.

DTNA also has done testing in New Carlisle, Ind., at a facility it shared with Navistar Inc. However, with the advent of High Desert, the arrangement in Indiana has been terminated, Daimler management said.

Wilfried Achenbach, a DTNA senior vice president, said company engineers will be making numerous trips along the 120 miles from Portland to the proving grounds so they can see how the ideas from their design screens perform on pavement.

The pavement is of an uncommonly brutal design intended to shake and bludgeon the trucks. Achenbach said the course is made to be 200 times more brutal than standard pavement, meaning Daimler engineers should be able to learn quickly if a truck design is lacking in durability.

DTNA still does its engine testing at the Detroit Diesel Corp. headquarters in Redford, Mich. There is, however, some powertrain capability at High Desert in the form of “Mount Madras,” a small, steep hill at the facility where transmissions will be tested.

While DTNA will be the primary beneficiary of its investment, Nielsen said other manufacturers of trucking equipment will be allowed to use HDPG — although not rival truck makers.

As an example, he said Freightliner has long done testing with converter dollies made by Silver Eagle Manufacturing Co., also of Portland.