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Daimler granted autonomous truck licence

It's official: Nevada has become the first place to introduce a registration plate specifically for self-driving commercial vehicles.

Freightliner Inspiration gets world-first self-driving truck licence in Nevada

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Daimler logo20 May 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER

DAIMLER'S Freightliner Inspiration truck has become the first self-driving commercial vehicle to be given permission to operate on a public road, with Nevada officially presenting the self-driving truck with 'AU' plate 010.

Two vehicles made their first legal autonomous road trips in Las Vegas after being presented with the new type of registration plate by the state's governor Brian Sandoval, who made the maiden trip with Daimler AG board member Wolfgang Bernhard.

However, don’t rush down to your Freightliner dealer just yet – production of autonomous trucks is still about 10 years away.

The test trucks underwent months of testing and calibration for US traffic and conditions, using a complex network of sensors, cameras and GPS technology.

Speaking at the launch, Mr Sandoval said the self-driving truck technology had the potential to shape the state's future.

“Nevada is proud to be making transportation history by hosting the first US public highway drive for a licensed autonomous commercial truck,” he said.

“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.

“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.”

Daimler's autonomous commercial vehicle systems were first demonstrated by the company's Actros-based Mercedes Benz Future Truck 2025 on a German autobahn in July last year, but that public road was closed for the trial.

The fully road-legal Freightliner Inspiration is based on the truck-maker's Cascadia Evolution eighteen-wheeler model, but has been fitted with the Highway Pilot self-driving system and has already covered 16,000km on German test circuits.

The company claims that self-driving technology has the potential to reduce fuel consumption as well as reducing strain on drivers, with operators experiencing up to 25 per cent less drowsiness, which in turn increases road safety.

Self-driving Highway Pilot technology is not yet available in a series production commercial vehicle, but with the milestone registration, Daimler Trucks North America CEO Martin Daum said a showroom model was now 10 years away.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Daimler chose the US location for its demonstration because of the nation's dependence on road haulage and demand for Freightliner products. About 70 per cent of all freight traveled by road in 2012, totaling 9.4 billion tonnes.

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