Daimler Trucks drives first autonomous truck on US highway06 May 2015

Daimler’s Freightliner Inspiration truck with its intelligent Highway Pilot today (6 May 2015) became the world´s first autonomous heavy truck to be granted a license for road use in Nevada, USA.

Its first journey took place on US Highway 15 in Las Vegas, and was made by Nevada governor Brian Sandoval and Daimler's Dr Wolfgang Bernhard in front of representatives of the media, government, and business and finance leaders.

In fact, the state of Nevada has licensed two Freightliner Inspiration trucks for regular operation on public roads.

"Our achievement here underlines our role as a technological pioneer and demonstrates our dedication to develop the technology for autonomous long-distance driving to series production standard," states Bernhard.

The goal, he says, is to respond to the future requirement for even safer, more efficient and more networked truck operations, and this milestone with the new Freightliner Inspiration builds on Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025, which last year drove along a cordoned-off section of the A14 autobahn near Magdeburg.

"Nevada is proud to be making transportation history today," says governor Sandoval.

"The application of this innovative technology to one of America's most important industries will have a lasting impact on our state and help shape the new Nevada economy," he continues.

"The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has been closely monitoring the advancements being made in autonomous vehicle development and reviewed DTNA's safety, testing and training plans before granting permission for this demonstration," he adds.

Meanwhile, Bernhard reveals that in the last few months the technology has been tested over many thousands of kilometres.

"We have transferred our Highway Pilot system to our US Freightliner brand within a very short timeframe and developed it for the world´s first autonomous truck to be licensed for road use," reports Bernhard.

As for the vehicle itself, the Freightliner Inspiration truck is based on the series-produced US Freightliner Cascadia Evolution model, with the addition of Highway Pilot technology modified for use on American highways.

The latter comprises a bumper-mounted, front-facing radar system, which monitors the road at close and long range, and a stereo camera, mounted above the dashboard.

The radar communicates with Daimler's existing driver assistance systems, including the Adaptive Cruise Control system and the Active Brake Assist system, as seen in the Mercedes-Benz Actros.

Meanwhile, the camera is a development of the Lane Departmure warning system designed to recognise road markings and communicate with the steering gear, itself proven on the road in Mercedes-Benz trucks since 2011.

As soon as the Freightliner Inspiration Truck is safely on the highway, Bernhard explains that the driver can activate the Highway Pilot. The vehicle then switches to autonomous mode and adapts to the speed of traffic. The driver receives a confirmation message in the instrument cluster.

The system regulates truck speed, applies the brakes and steers, and is claimed to be designed to operate safely under a wide range of driving conditions. The truck automatically complies with posted speed limits, regulates distance from the vehicle ahead and uses the stop-and-go function during rush hour.

Brian Tinham

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