Earlier this month, we had the distinct privilege and honor of being invited to a groundbreaking event in Las Vegas to witness a significant new advance in truck technology.
Daimler Trucks North America, the manufacturer of Freightliner Trucks, unveiled the first “Autonomous Truck” licensed in the state of Nevada, or anywhere in the world for that matter. They call it the Inspiration Truck.
Freightliner chose Hoover Dam for the unveiling, as the dam is considered one of the greatest manmade marvels of the modern time. Hence, the perfect place for the introduction of the “Autonomous Truck,” a huge safety technology.
Nussbaum, Swift, and ConWay were the three companies Freightliner chose to feature in a video they used to showcase the relationship they have with their customers. And yes, this video was projected onto the massive Hoover Dam.
I have to say; I think it’s still sinking in just how awesome an honor it was to see Nussbaum so prominently displayed on a national landmark. It truly was a proud moment for me.
What is an autonomous truck anyway? Well, let me first start by saying it is NOT a driver-less truck. It is a truck that utilizes several safety technologies to take over driving responsibilities at certain times when the driver allows it.
Freightliner gave us the unique opportunity to take this new technology for a test drive while we were in Utah. As we got up to cruising speed, the driver turned on the cruise control, took his hand off the wheel and the truck took over. Using technology like lane departure the truck operated without driver assistance, staying between the lines.
Adaptive Cruise Control ensured that the truck kept a safe traveling distance from the vehicle ahead. Collision avoidance systems on the truck alerted the driver to slowing vehicles ahead. The driver rested with his hands off the wheel while explaining how the system operated. We were impressed.
There are questions yet to be answered.
What is the autonomous technology?
Much like “lane departure”, it is a feature that guides the truck. This provides a new level of safety for the driver while protecting the motoring public.
What will it do for the driver?
It will allow the driver to take their hands off the steering wheel to give them periods of rest. Allowing them to be more alert and rested throughout their workday.
At what speeds will it work?
The technology is for use on highways and will only operate at cruising speeds. At speeds below forty-five miles per hour, it will automatically disengage, requiring the driver to take over.
What will happen if roads are not clear?
This technology will not operate when the road is snow or ice covered.
Will safety advocates really allow trucks to operate in this fashion?
We think so, but only time will tell. The public will need assurance that this technology is safe on the road.
What’s coming next?
Stay tuned. You can bet that Nussbaum will be at the forefront of it.