Freightliner has unveiled a new autonomous semi-truck that it says will be the future of truck driving. The self-driving semi, named the Freightliner Inspiration, was displayed for the first time in Las Vegas on a closed driving course. The company’s goal in developing the Inspiration was to create a future vehicle that made trucking easier and more economical, as well as increasing efficiency and safety. The main reasons for the unveiling in Nevada is that the state has been supportive of the companies developing autonomous vehicles and has provided Freightliner with a license plate for the Inspiration, legally allowing it on Nevada’s roads.
The Inspiration is classified as a level-three, semi-autonomous vehicle, meaning that a seated operator must be present in the vehicle at all times to monitor the vehicle’s dynamics. On the outside, the Inspiration resembles every other semi-truck driving on the roads. The body is based on the platform of the Cascadia production truck, one of the more popular models for trucking today. It is the additional features that make the new truck so intriguing.
The truck is powered by a Highway Pilot system, described as a semi-autonomous driving system using satellite-mapping tools and an onboard navigation system “to plot a steady, hands-free course.” The truck has windshield and grille-mounted radar cameras and sensors, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control to keep it within the parameters it has been given. Once the driver has entered the destination into the system, the truck can steer, accelerate, and brake for itself without the driver’s hands on the steering wheel or foot on the brake.
The Highway Pilot system is designed to compensate for strong winds, elevation changes and sharp curves, and will only disengage under circumstances of impending danger or incomplete information about the route. The system would have to be updated periodically at Freightliner dealers to remain up to date. The new technology has the potential to change the way trucking is done around the world, but it remains to be seen how popular it will be with the companies and employees in the trucking industry.