A new self-driving truck has recently been launched in Nevada, intended to show how autonomous trucks will make the nation’s roadways safer.
Introducing the Freightliner Inspiration
The self-driving semi-truck, the Freightliner Inspiration, is a heavily modified Daimler 18-wheeler that’s commonly used all over the world. Daimler hopes that it will make national and international road transportation safer, less expensive, and more eco-friendly.
The Freightliner Inspiration isn’t entirely autonomous, however. It has the ability to take full control on major highways, maintaining a safe distance from vehicles traveling around it. It can also stay in its lane without issues, and won’t pass slower vehicles. In the event of severe weather or road conditions, the truck will notify the driver using dashboard icons and beeping sounds to let them know they need to take over. If the driver fails to respond within five seconds, the truck will gradually slow to a full stop.
The hardware that the truck uses isn’t too different from what many Daimler trucks already use on the road. It includes a stereoscopic camera that can accurately read lane lines and short- and long-range radar that can scan the road for obstacles up to 800 feet ahead. The vehicle doesn’t include vehicle-to-vehicle communication, however.
How Autonomous Trucks Will Improve Road Safety
Research conducted in 2012 concluded that 330,000 large trucks were involved in accidents resulting in the deaths of nearly 4,000 people, a majority of whom were in passenger cars. Autonomous trucks and other vehicles are intended to help reduce these numbers, keeping passengers and drivers safer.
Some of the latest safety features introduced include lane control and automatic braking, two additions that have made a difference.
Eliminating the Need for Truck Drivers
Another benefit of driverless trucks is that they may help alleviate the shortage of truckers in the U.S. Additionally, due to the long hours that truck drivers are often required to work, they frequently experience strain and sleep deprivation that can make it dangerous for them to be behind the wheel. Autonomous trucks will ultimately take over when drivers need to rest.
Time will tell whether or not autonomous trucks are efficient and reliable enough to make roadways safe.