Last week, we featured the unmanned drones and bulldozers preparing for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. This week, we showcase the self-driving semi-trucks designed to save lives on the highway.
Nearly 4,000 Americans died in car accidents with a big rig in 2013 — which means about 1 in 10 highway deaths involve a truck, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The good news: Daimler, the largest manufacturer of heavy-duty trucks, is hoping to change that with its latest model.
Earlier this summer, Daimler unveiled its new Freightliner, a prototype 18-wheeler called the “Inspiration Truck,” the world’s first self-driving truck licensed for road tests. While the truck still requires a driver behind the wheel to take over lane changes, exiting and parking, the majority of travel time is controlled by the truck’s “Highway Pilot,” which relies on radar sensors and cameras to take over steering, braking and accelerating from the driver.
The technology, coupled with the time and energy saved by the driver while on auto-pilot, adds another level of safety on the road. Although federal law limits truck drivers to 11 hours a day behind the wheel, driver fatigue is still a leading cause of accidents.
Nevada is currently the only state where the trucks are legal for testing, but Daimler expects the trucks to be coming to a highway near you within the next five years.
Martin Daum, head of Daimler Trucks in North America, told Bloomberg that he sees the truck driver of tomorrow as a “logistics manager,” overseeing automated systems, talking with dispatchers and only occasionally taking the wheel.
Want more? Look out for other emerging driverless technologies from our ongoing Futuristic Fleet series.