The future of autonomous driving has many people in the trucking industry questioning, what is next? This past May in Nevada, Freightliner and Daimler unveiled the newest advancement in autonomous driving for truckers. The Level 3 Autonomous Truck, Inspiration, features a system called Highway Pilot.
Highway Pilot uses forward cameras and radar sensors to implement its autonomous autopilot mode while on the highway. This allows the truck to steer and stay safely between lanes. The truck can brake and allow for a safe following distance between it and the car in front. By having these features, this will allow the driver to do other things besides having to focus on the road.
While the Inspiration is an autonomous vehicle, the human driver is still the most important element. The truck cannot be in Highway Pilot mode without a driver in the seat. The driver has to set the truck in Highway Pilot mode and supervise the truck to adapt to different road conditions like snow or rain. If the driver turns the wheel or taps on the brake, Highway Pilot mode is disabled. This new technology will not replace truck drivers or take jobs away.
The hope of the autonomous truck is to make a truck drivers’ job easier and safer since the wheel is not always in their hands. The truck will allow for safe distractions for drivers, allowing them to make pick up and drop off arrangements while driving to the site or to make lodging arrangements.
The cost savings for the autonomous truck is a plus as well. With the reduction in accidents, trucking companies will save money on insurance and in buying new truck equipment. These trucks will save on fuel costs since they will be driving in the most efficient way. The technology of Highway Pilot allows the driver to platoon in a safe way by setting the following distance to the necessary distance.
This advancement in autonomous driving will accelerate the speed of other advancements in this area. Mercedes-Benz is currently working on an autonomous vehicle that will allow for safer and more reliable driving. The hope is that this will speed up the process and get the first non-commercial car on the road sooner than expected.
Even thought the truck can only be driven in Nevada, the hope is that these advancements will bring about new technologies for the future in both the trucking world and in non-commercial driving.