Forget what Hollywood has told you about the future—it is here today, and in the form of a driverless, autonomous truck. Freightliner, a popular brand of trucks produced by Daimler Trucks North America, has unveiled what it calls the Inspiration. This autonomous truck debuted recently in a massive event featuring it driving itself across the Hoover Dam.
The Inspiration operates at Autonomy Level 3, which is just a step below the fully autonomous Level 4. Vehicles at Autonomy Level 3 can accelerate, decelerate, and steer without the assistance of a driver, but a driver is required to be behind the wheel at all times. The Inspiration is only licensed for use in the autonomous operating mode in daylight hours and good weather conditions and only for highway driving.
Currently, Nevada is the only state that allows autonomous trucks on public-use highways, but that may change as proposals for autonomous vehicle routes become more common. Currently, there are talks about such a route that would stretch from Mexico to Canada in order to transport oil from North Dakota.
Will These Trucks Ever Be Legalized Elsewhere?
The Inspiration autonomous truck is certainly a marvel, but will it ever be a reality on our highways? While it sounds far-fetched now, as truck accidents increase in numbers, it might not be such a radical concept. A driver is still required to be behind the wheel at all times, and must take over operation in nonstandard maneuvers and emergencies.
Daimler Trucks North America also claims that the Inspiration can help combat safety issues like driver fatigue. With current disputes over hours of service regulations for truck drivers and several accidents resulting from overtired truckers, any viable solution may merit serious consideration from transportation officials.
Would you feel safe driving on a road next to an Inspiration? Share your thoughts in the comments below!