Gov. Brian Sandoval and Daimler truck chief Wolfgang Bernhard promptly used the license to lap Highway 15 near Las Vegas in a newly revealed Freightliner Inspiration Truck. It was a clear signal that autonomous driving is big-rig reality, though it's still a long way from widespread use.
Nevada certified two of Daimler's Freightliner Inspiration Trucks, which use the company's Highway Pilot system with a stereo camera, radar, and lane-keeping collision-prevention features to regulate the brakes and steering. The radar component has a long-range sensor that can cover 820 feet at an 18-degree angle and a shorter-range unit that stretches 230 feet at a 130-degree angle.
The Inspiration trucks are based on the existing Freightliner Cascadia Evolution model used on US roads. In addition to the autonomous technologies, it also has futuristic design cues, including blue lighting in the front and a new hood and grille.
While there are only two Freightliner Inspiration trucks in existence, Daimler expects to bring the Highway Pilot system into mass-produced big rigs by 2025, in time to capitalize on the market's predicted growth. The German truckmaker predicts the global hauling market will triple by 2050, and the United States will be a key part of that growth. Trucks carry 69.1 percent the nation's domestic freight tonnage and hauled 9.7 billion tons of freight in 2013, according to the American Trucking Association.
Daimler expects autonomous driving to augment this growth, and perhaps evolve the role of the truck driver. Still, the company points out autonomous tech is not meant to replace drivers, but to assist them and relieve fatigue and monotony on long hauls. The driver has to stay in control for passing, in city traffic, and when hooking up the trailer.
The company said autonomous driving also offers the potential for improved fuel economy – tests showed a five-percent gain – and lower maintenance costs. Daimler also said the technology could reduce congestion on the road. Much of this is attributable to the constant flow of traffic, which is aided by autonomous driving.
While the benefits are becoming increasingly apparent, autonomous technology is still met with skepticism. But it's not going away, and as Tuesday illustrated, even the largest trucks on the road are capable of running on autopilot.
OTHER NEWS & NOTES
McLaren debuts darker livery at Catalunya
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Next-gen Chevy Volt gets a price cut
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Italy offers Lamborghini incentives to build SUV
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