Engineers Usher a New Age in Automated Transportation
Kagan Pittman posted on May 06, 2015 |
Although autonomous, drivers are still required for docking and driving trucks off highways.

The world of autonomous vehicles is here, and with it is the first autonomous commercial transportation vehicle, the Freightliner Inspiration Truck.

The computer Highway Pilot will be taking the wheel for those long midnight drives, using a host of technology to bring machine precision to the road.

Using radar and camera technology to assess its surroundings, the Inspiration Truck knows exactly where other vehicles are in relation to it. The Inspiration Truck can react to surrounding vehicles and bends in the road by decelerating or braking when necessary.

The camera technology further allows it to assess lane markings. Controlling the power steering, the Inspiration Truck stays in the center of the lane at all times.

The Inspiration Truck is even able to communicate with others of its kind through radio signals. This communication can allow trucks to “platoon.” Grouping together in a line at just the right distance from each other, they can reduce wind friction to increase fuel efficiency while still maintaining a safe braking response time.

If the lead vehicle decides to put on the brakes, it sends a signal to the vehicles behind it commanding them to do the same. The following trucks respond within a fraction of a second.

The Freightliner Inspiration Truck maybe be autonomous, but it isn't driverless.
The Freightliner Inspiration Truck may be autonomous, but it isn't driverless.

Autonomous Does Not Mean Driverless

None of this means that the Inspiration Truck is driverless, though.

Drivers can analyze data and input commands from a dash interface. While the Highway Pilot is in control, drivers can tend to more logistical tasks like routing and logging.

The Inspiration Truck operates at what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines as “Level 3” of autonomous vehicle capabilities. This means the driver is normally in control of the vehicle, but may relinquish control under the right traffic conditions.

The vehicle monitors change in conditions that require a transition back to the driver when necessary in highway settings. The driver is in control of the vehicle for exiting the highway, driving on local roads and in docking for making deliveries.

“The driver is a key part of a collaborative vehicle system," said Richard Howard, senior vice president of sales and marketing with Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA). "The autonomous vehicle technology not only contributes to improved safety and efficiency, but allows for improved communication through connectivity and integration."

Developed by engineers at DTNA, the Inspiration Truck is designed to reduce accidents, improve fuel efficiency and contribute less to highway congestion.

License to Drive

The Inspiration Truck underwent extensive testing before the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles granted it a license to operate on public roads in the state.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval formally granted the license to operate the vehicle in Nevada. Affixing a license plate to the truck, Sandoval took part in the ceremonial first autonomous drive on May 5, 2015 at the Hoover Dam.

Trucking industry analysts and media will have the chance to ride in two Inspiration Trucks on public roads near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway today to get a taste of the vehicles autonomous mode.

Can you see the Freightliner Inspiration Truck hitting highways outside of Nevada? Do you have any concerns about the trucks autonomous mode? What do you think is next for autonomous vehicles?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

For more information about the Freightliner Inspiration Truck, visit freightlinerinspiration.com.

For more information about DTNA, visit daimler-trucksnorthamerica.com.

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