World’s first self-driving truck takes to the highways in Nevada

The Freightliner Inspiration Truck on a US Highway near Las Vegas. (Image from

The Freightliner Inspiration Truck on a US Highway near Las Vegas. (Image from

If you hanker to be a driver of a brand-new Daimler truck, there’s bad news for you: the job doesn’t exist anymore. The Freightliner Inspiration, the world’s first self-driving semi-truck, is now undergoing testing under real road conditions in Nevada.

It’s not yet on sale, however. The US state has certified two
Freightliner Inspiration trucks to mix with regular traffic on
public roads.

“Today is history,” Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval said
Tuesday, posing along with Daimler board member Wolfgang Bernhard
with a red license plate for the self-driving truck at an event
at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Prior to the current testing, the self-driving truck covered over
16,000 kilometers on a test circuit in Germany.

Daimler, the world’s biggest truck maker, says self-driving
trucks will help freight companies save money on fuel and boost
safety on the roads. In 2014 Daimler’s rival, Google, announced
the creation of self-driving cars, without steering wheel or
pedals. It’s hoped that automation in freight transportation has
as much potential as driverless cars.

World Premiere Freightliner Inspiration Truck. (Image from

The truck maker says that autonomous vehicles will be connected
to their environment and other road users to such an extent that
they will avoid areas with heavy traffic, reducing traffic jams
on highways.

Despite its weight, the Inspiration truck is a smart vehicle. It
maintains a safe distance from other vehicles on the highway and
doesn’t attempt to pass slower cars. A radar unit centered in the
front bumper of the trailblazing truck monitors the road both at
close and long range. The long-range sensor goes out to about 250
meters, according to Daimler. The area in front of the truck is
also monitored by a stereo camera (which has a range of about 100
meters) mounted above the dashboard. The steering gear installed
in the Inspiration has been road-tested in Mercedes-Benz trucks
since 2011.

Daimler says the Inspiration will “significantly change”
the job of truckers, creating career opportunities for drivers to
become what the company calls “transport managers.
Autonomous driving will also relieve drivers from long-distance

“Autonomous driving will fuse truck and driver into a team
more than ever, and into a meaningful, effective and highly
economical combination of man and machine,
” the truck maker

The company says that drivers will remain “the boss in their
because the technology of the Freightliner
Inspiration still requires the presence of a qualified truck
driver with valid commercial driver’s license in the cab and on
the gauges. Daimler is not the only company to challenge
automation technology for heavy-duty trucks. Sweden’s Scania (a
unit of Volkswagen) has been developing the so-called platooning
on roads system that allows several trucks to move in tight
convoy with a sole human driver in the lead vehicle. Apart from
fuel savings, one of the major advantages of platooning is a
reduction in traffic congestion, Scania says.

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