Freightliner Maps Long Road Ahead for Autonomous Truck Technology

m-freightlinerispirationdriver-1It will take rewriting a sheaf of regulations and presenting a compelling business case on safety and fuel-economy gains to fleet operators before a Level 3 autonomous truck, like the Freightliner Inspiration demonstration truck, becomes a production tractor.

That’s why Daimler Truck North America is offering no timeline to when such a truck will be available to buy.

Rather, the OEM said it will continue to incrementally increase the available automation of routine tasks for truck drivers to help make driving trucks both safer and more efficient

In other words, explained DTNA executives at a Sept. 15 media briefing in Las Vegas, technology that will enable robustly engineered autonomous driving will be built into a highway tractor progressively over time— so it will be ready when the rules of the road and the buyers of trucks are ready for it.

Indeed, Diane Hames, DTNA General Manager of Marketing & Strategy, stressed that the Inspiration is not a prototype but “a technology showcase” for Daimler’s autonomous truck technologies and that it remains an ongoing engineering project.

Hames also said that Daimler’s vision for autonomous technology is “not about removing drivers” from trucks, but “extending their capabilities” to operate more safely and comfortably mile after mile.

She described the capabilities the systems provide as “bionics for drivers,” pointing out that they enable a driver to “see” farther than their eyes can and that “they don’t get tired.

“This technology is not about getting rid of drivers,” she added, “but taking away the tedium of driving on the highway for hours at a time so the job is less tiring.”

During a ride and drive for journalists, which also enabled several who hold CDLs to be certified to operate autonomous vehicles within Nevada, DTNA engineers showed how intuitive it is for the truck driver to engage the Innovation’s Highway Pilot system when prompted by an electronic dash display to put the vehicle into autonomous mode, once he or she has positioned it in a highway lane.

Highway Pilot is the system that enables autonomous operation by linking the Innovation’s “camera mirrors” and long- and short-range radar inputs with other onboard systems that provide lane stability, collision avoidance, speed control, braking and steering.

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