Daimler introduces autonomous truck in Nevada

By Reed Black, Land Line Now staff reporter | 5/6/2015

The state of Nevada on Tuesday issued licenses for two Daimler autonomous trucks to operate on the state’s highways, the first time this request has been granted in the United States.

For now, the autonomous trucks are in the testing phase. Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles Spokesperson David Fierro told “Land Line Now” that the license allows the trucks to travel statewide and even haul freight if they wanted to.

At the unveiling of Daimler’s autonomous truck this week, Land Line Magazine Field Editor Suzanne Stempinski was among the trucking press in Las Vegas. At press time, she was scheduled to drive the truck.

Daimler calls the truck the Freightliner Inspiration. The truck is equipped with cameras, sensors, lane stability, collision avoidance, braking, speed control and other technologies.

According to Daimler, a human is always in the cab ready to take over to exit the highway, negotiate a work zone, or deal with other obstacles. Fierro says the licenses prohibit trucks from operating autonomously at night and under certain weather conditions.

“The license that we’ve issued them is limited, and that was by design,” Fierro told “Land Line Now.”

“They want to start off doing some of the basic functions as far as autonomous operations, and they told us they’ll come back when they want to expand that scope of their license.”

When asked how this would affect logging in hours driven to adhere to hours-of-service regulations, Fierro said he was not sure how Daimler will approach that issue. Nothing was said about how law enforcement will interpret time spent while in automation mode.

Daimler has not said when it might try to sell autonomous trucks or what the price tag would be.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer says he doesn’t expect to see autonomous trucks actually operating on the highways anytime soon. While Daimler says the self-driving truck frees up the human driver to do paperwork or other business, Spencer questions that.

“While Daimler might suggest that drivers can do other things at the same time, that would be a big mistake,” Spencer said. “Not only do they need to be paying attention every minute, but of course they are required to by the regulations.”

Reed Black is news anchor for “Land Line Now” on Sirius XM the Road Dog Channel 146.

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