Daimler Trucks has become the world’s first manufacturer to be granted a road licence for an autonomous heavy-duty truck. The first journey in the so-called Freightliner Inspiration Truck, which took place on U.S. highway 15 in Las Vegas, was made by Brian Sandoval, Governor of Nevada, and Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard. The truck is equipped with the intelligent Highway Pilot system for autonomous driving. The state of Nevada licensed two Freightliner Inspiration Trucks for regular operation on public roads. Daimler Trucks is the global leading truck manufacturer and, with the Freightliner brand, also the biggest producer in the U.S.
“Our Freightliner Inspiration Truck is the world’s first autonomous commercial vehicle to be licensed for road use. Our achievement here underlines yet again our role as a technological pioneer and demonstrates our consistent dedication to develop the technology for autonomous long-distance driving to series production standard,” stated Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, Daimler AG board member responsible for Trucks and Buses.
Highway Pilot system to be developed to series production standard
Transport in the future must be even safer, more efficient and more networked – this is the aspiration that Daimler Trucks has expressed in the new Freightliner Inspiration Truck. In July of last year, Daimler Trucks provided the world’s first demonstration of an autonomous truck in action when the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 drove along a cordoned-off section of the A14 autobahn near Magdeburg. Now, the first appearance of the Inspiration Truck on a public road in the U.S. marks the logical next step on the journey to series production. In the last few months the technology has been tested over many thousands of kilometres and configured for use in U.S. highway traffic.
“We are in a unique position among manufacturers that we are able to implement technologies across all business units and brands. We have transferred our Highway Pilot system to our U.S. Freightliner brand within a very short time frame and developed it for the world´s first autonomous truck to be licensed for road use,” reports Dr. Bernhard.
Spectacular world premiere near Las Vegas
The world premiere of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck took place near Las Vegas, in front of representatives of the media, government as well as business and finance. Trucks are by far the most important means of transport in the U.S. In 2012, trucks transported around 70 percent of all freight tonnage in the United States. This way, a total of 9.4 billion tons of freight were moved by trucks. Globally, the road freight transport is expected to even triple between now and 2050. Autonomous trucks provide the opportunity to cope with this growth in a manner that harmonizes economic and environmental needs.
Dr. Bernhard continues: “Nevada is proud to be making transportation history by hosting the first U.S. public highway drive for a licensed autonomous commercial truck. 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,” said Gov. Sandoval. “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 of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck.”
Freightliner Inspiration Truck: Revolutionary technology will be tested on public roads
The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is based on the series-produced U.S. Freightliner Cascadia Evolution model, but with the addition of the Highway Pilot technology. The latter comprises a front radar and a stereo camera plus tried-and-tested assistance systems such as the Adaptive Cruise Control+, as seen in the Mercedes-Benz Actros. For licensing on public roads in Nevada, the technology was further developed and the excellent interaction of components extensively tested. As part of the truck’s so-called Marathon Run, the Freightliner Inspiration Truck covered over 10,000 miles (over 16,000 kilometres) on a test circuit in Germany.
Martin Daum, President and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), commented: “The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is all about more sustainable transport, for the benefit of the economy, society and consumers alike. It remains our goal to be in a position to offer the Highway Pilot in series-produced vehicles from the middle of the coming decade. With licensing for road use in the USA we have reached an important milestone in autonomous truck driving.”
“Daimler Trucks is actively urging dialogue with politicians, authorities and all other parties involved. Our next goal is to test the Highway Pilot technology on public roads in Germany too. Preparations are already under way,” Dr. Bernhard adds.
Initial research findings of Daimler Trucks clearly show autonomous driving relieves the strain of truck drivers
The Highway Pilot technology from Daimler Trucks demonstrably leads to more concentrated and thus more efficient long-haul truck drivers. This is a result of studies conducted on a cordoned-off test route during the pilot stage of the technology. Measurements of the probands’ brain currents (EEG) demonstrated that driver drowsiness decreases by about 25% when the truck is being operated in autonomous mode, and the driver all the while pursuing other meaningful operations. The studies also prove a high acceptance of the Highway Pilot technology and a rapid adaption phase of the probands. Relieving strains of the driver through autonomous truck driving leads to more road safety.
Successful start to the year with increase in sales in NAFTA
In the first quarter of 2015 the demand for trucks in the NAFTA region rose again as a result of a sustained period of strong economic activity. With 40,800 vehicles sold, Daimler Trucks sales figures are, significantly, 18 percent up on the previous year’s quarter (compared to 34,600 units). This meant that Daimler Trucks was able to increase its market share by 1.2 percentage points to 41.4 percent, securing its place as market leader in the 6-8 weight categories once more. A significant driving factor behind the successful sales figures was the Freightliner Cascadia Evolution.
Overall for 2015, Daimler Trucks is expecting market growth in the order of 10 to 15 percent in the NAFTA region. New products such as the Western Star 5700XE and the top-selling Freightliner Cascadia Evolution should help to further reinforce the company’s market dominance.