Self-Driving Semi-Truck Hits American Roads
The next self-driving vehicle may be an 18-wheeler barreling down the highway.
Freightliner just unleashed the first real, road-legal autonomous big rig on the roads of Nevada.
Just a few days ago, German manufacturer Daimler revealed its Freightliner Inspiration, a self-driving semi-truck. The company will begin test-driving the rig in Nevada, one of four states (and the District of Columbia) that have approved licensing for autonomous vehicles.
Though a human driver will need to sit in the driver’s seat, the truck has an autopilot feature that can take over on long highways. Fatigue is a leading factor in large truck crashes, and Daimler hopes a self-driving rig will give drivers a break during long hauls.
Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, Daimler AG’s truck boss, says that the Inspiration Truck handles that problem significantly. At a media event before the unveiling, he spoke about how taking control away from drivers positively impacts their ability to focus for long periods of time. “We measured brain activity with or without autonomous function, and it clearly shows that driver drowsiness decreases by about 25 percent when the truck is operating in autonomous mode,” he said.
The Inspiration Truck is considered “level 3” on NHTSA’s automation scale. That’s the second-highest level of automation — the same that Google’s self-driving cars currently operate on. This means that the vehicle is advanced enough to enable the driver to cede full control in certain traffic or environmental conditions. The driver can interrupt and regain control, but the vehicle should allow a “comfortable transition time.”
Daimler officials said they have already logged over 10,000 miles testing the Inspiration truck, enough to make them feel confident it can operate safely on public roads. They noted it is what the industry refers to as Level 3 technology, which means the rig cannot operate under all conditions without driver input. For one thing, said Bernhard, its sensors require clearly visible white lane stripes.
Source: Huffington Post