The future has arrived in Nevada, where on May 5th 2015, Daimler’s Truck and Bus division unveiled the Freightliner Inspiration: the world’s first licensed self-driven big rig. It looks like something out of Transformers, but make no mistake – this cousin of Optimus Prime does not feature fully-functioning robotic control.
A trained, professional truck driver is still needed to navigate trouble spots, such as passing another vehicle, or traveling through hazardous weather conditions. Instead, the Freightliner Inspiration presents a possible solution to two tough issues impacting the transportation industry: safety and truck driver shortages.
“We don’t want to get rid of drivers. We want to make their lives more efficient and more easy.” – Sven Ennerst, Head of Truck and Bus Development, Daimler AG
All the Bells and Whistles
The Freightliner Inspiration works like the autopilot system on a passenger jet. It boasts a roomy, luxurious cab, complete with wood grain floors, French leather seating and a fully digital gauge cluster. The highway pilot features several smart assistance sensors for increased safety and fuel efficiency. The front radar system monitors the road up to 800 ft. ahead. Another radar detects cars and trucks merging in front of the vehicle.
Stereo cameras scan the road for directional markings. This guides the steering, braking and speed of the truck. When the sensors pick up heavy snow or sleet, the truck alerts the driver to take over. The highway pilot features of Daimler’s new trucks make travel by convoy easier, with the sensors separating vehicles by 30 ft. In addition, the Freightliner reduces emissions and improves fuel economy by up to 50%.
Industry Impact from Autonomous Vehicles
Freight has always been an important component of the U.S. economy. As e-commerce and internet shopping preference grows, so does the demand to ship goods across the country. It’s anticipated that vehicle platooning, where electronic vehicles are grouped together as they drive, will be the next big thing in the trucking industry. Truck driver shortages are another industry trend anticipated in the near future. The American Trucking Association predicts the industry will be short approximately 240,000 drivers by 2022.
Safety is a top priority for any fleet. In 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported a total of 3,692 fatal crashes involving large trucks. The general idea is that automated trucks reduce the chances of accidents due to truck driver error. The Freightliner already comes equipped with the Advanced Emergency Breaking Systems (AEBS) and Land Departure Warning System (LDWS) requirements that are set to take effect in 2016. This makes it the most safety compliant vehicle created to date.
Due to the Freightliner’s classification as a level 3 autonomous vehicle, trained drivers are still needed to operate these vehicles. Automated vehicles may reduce the requirements of commercial truck licensing, but they can’t eliminate the need for these individuals.
Despite the overwhelming potential to increase both driver safety and efficiency, regular and widespread use of autonomous vehicles is still a projected ten years out. Daimler had to shell out a $5-million-dollar insurance policy just to get the Freightliner Inspiration out on the open road. Currently the only states that allow automated cars on the road are California, Nevada, Michigan, Florida and Washington D.C. Nevertheless, it is exciting to see new technological advances in driver safety gaining traction in the trucking industry.
About The Trucking Attorneys
Fried Rogers Goldberg is an Atlanta law firm that specializes in cases involving trucking and tractor-trailer accidents. If you or a loved one has been injured in a serious trucking accident, you can reach our attorneys at (404) 591-1800 for a free case review.