Nevada has granted the first license for an autonomous commercial truck to operate on an open public highway in the U.S. Governor Brian Sandoval screwed on a state license plate onto the Freightliner Inspirational Truck, then hopped in for an autonomous ride with executives from Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA).
“Nevada is proud to be making transportation history today by hosting the first U.S. public highway drive for a licensed autonomous commercial truck,” said Sandoval in a press statement. “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.”
DTNA executives said the autonomous vehicle technology being showcased in the Freightliner Inspiration Truck will help reduce accidents, improve fuel consumption, cut highway congestion, and safeguard the environment.
Nevada was selected as the demonstration location for the Inspiration because it is one of four states, plus the District of Columbia, with laws regulating autonomous vehicle operation. State legislation passed in 2011 and 2013 regulates the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles, making Nevada a popular state for showing of the latest and greatest vehicle tech. Nevada's legislation includes commercial trucks, and it sets standards specifying the number of miles an autonomous vehicle needs to be tested under certain conditions before it gets a license to be made active in Nevada. DTNA has a special permit to operate the Freightliner Inspiration on public roads near Las Vegas after supplying state officials with detailed info on the truck's safety systems and training program for the drivers.
Most of the hype in fuel efficient and autonomous vehicles has come out of the automobile industry, but DTNA is making significant investments in technology to keep the trucking industry in the race for bragging rights. Earlier this year, the company's “SuperTruck” program demonstrated a blend of technologies to deliver a 115 percent freight efficiency improvement under a Department of Energy program with real world road testing. The SuperTruck ran a five day, 312-mile interstate route between San Antonio and Dallas, delivering an average of 12.2 miles per gallon of diesel -- lousy for a sedan, but double the fuel economy for a typical truck.
DTNA put 8 million CPU hours into the build of the SuperTruck. Features include optimized aerodynamics, a new power train and chassis and a new engine model with a waste heat recovery system. SuperTruck delivers fuel savings with a combination of software managing smart systems, including a hybrid system to charge a battery operating an all-electric air conditioning system.
Where life really gets interesting is when DTNA merges the technology from the Freightliner Inspiration Truck with fuel-saving SuperTruck advances to deliver commercial vehicles that will slash fuel consumption and reduce total ownership costs while improving road safety. Hopefully we'll hear more about Inspiration and SuperTruck at IoT Evolution Expo this August in Las Vegas.
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Edited by Ken Briodagh