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Freightliner unveils licensed autonomous truck


May 6, 2015
By Andrew Macklin

May 6, 2015 – In an evening ceremony at the Hoover Dam, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) unveiled the Freightliner Inspiration Truck to several hundred international news media, trucking industry analysts and officials.

The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is the first licensed autonomous commercial truck to operate on an open public highway in the United States. Developed by engineers at DTNA, it looks to unlock autonomous vehicle advancements that reduce accidents, improve fuel consumption, cut highway congestion, and safeguard the environment.

“Putting the Freightliner Inspiration Truck on the road is an historic day for Daimler Trucks and the North American trucking industry,” said Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG Daimler Trucks & Buses. “Our team has done a marvelous job in bringing this breakthrough technology to the road.”

“Freightliner Trucks has been setting the standard for commercial vehicle design and technology for nearly 75 years,” said Martin Daum, President & CEO, DTNA. “Whether it was the first all-aluminum cab introduced in 1942 or the current industry-leading Freightliner Cascadia Evolution, we are inspired by meeting the challenges faced by our customers. Inspiration drives technology leadership and, ultimately, customer value. Our customers are our inspiration.”

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The Freightliner Inspiration Truck underwent extensive testing before the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles granted it a license to operate on public roads in the state. Earlier on Tuesday, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval formally granted the license to operate the vehicle in the state, affixing a license plate to the truck and taking part in the ceremonial first drive of the truck in autonomous mode.

The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is equipped with the Highway Pilot sensors and computer hardware is based upon a series production Freightliner Cascadia Evolution, fully certified to meet all U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The Highway Pilot links together a sophisticated set of camera technology and radar systems with lane stability, collision avoidance, speed control, braking, steering and other monitoring systems. This combination creates a Level 3 autonomous vehicle operating system that can perform safely under a range of highway driving conditions. In total, two trucks with this equipment exist.

The Freightliner Inspiration Truck operates on highways at what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines as Level 3 of autonomous vehicle capabilities, enabling the driver to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain traffic or environmental conditions. The autonomous vehicle system is responsible for maintaining legal speed, staying in the selected lane, keeping a safe braking distance from other vehicles, and slowing or stopping the vehicle based on traffic and road conditions. The vehicle monitors changes in conditions that require transition back to driver control when necessary in highway settings. The driver is in control of the vehicle for exiting the highway, on local roads and in docking for making deliveries.