In a spectacular evening ceremony at Hoover Dam, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) unveiled the Freightliner Inspiration Truck to several hundred international news media, trucking industry analysts and officials.
The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is the first licensed autonomous commercial truck to operate on an open public highway in the United States. Developed by engineers at DTNA, it promises to unlock autonomous vehicle advancements that reduce accidents, improve fuel consumption, cut highway congestion and safeguard the environment.
"Putting the Freightliner Inspiration Truck on the road is an historic day for Daimler Trucks and the North American trucking industry," says Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG Daimler Trucks & Buses. "Our team has done a marvelous job in bringing this breakthrough technology to the road."
"Freightliner Trucks has been setting the standard for commercial vehicle design and technology for nearly 75 years," says Martin Daum, President & CEO, DTNA. "Whether it was the first all-aluminum cab introduced in 1942 or the current industry-leading Freightliner Cascadia Evolution, we are inspired by meeting the challenges faced by our customers. Inspiration drives technology leadership and, ultimately, customer value. Our customers are our inspiration."
The Hoover Dam was selected for the unveiling because it represents America's ability to dream big and accomplish amazing things, even in the midst of adversity. Built during the Great Depression under harsh conditions, it took fewer than five years to complete. The largest dam of its time, the Hoover Dam still stands as an engineering marvel eight decades later. The Inspiration Truck drove on top of the dam, presenting itself to the world, while the dam was used as an emotional large-scale projection surface.
The Freightliner Inspiration Truck illustrates DTNA's commitment to customer value through consistent investment in the latest technology and the design and production of the best commercial trucks on today's roads. Some of the core autonomous vehicle systems in the concept vehicle are already successfully deployed in the current Freightliner Cascadia Evolution.
The Freightliner Inspiration Truck underwent extensive testing before the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles granted it a license to operate on public roads in the state. Earlier on Tuesday, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandovalformally granted the license to operate the vehicle in the state, affixing a license plate to the truck and taking part in the ceremonial first drive of the truck in autonomous mode.
The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is equipped with the Highway Pilot sensors and computer hardware is based upon a series production Freightliner Cascadia Evolution, fully certified to meet all U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The Highway Pilot links together a sophisticated set of camera technology and radar systems with lane stability, collision avoidance, speed control, braking, steering and other monitoring systems. This combination creates a Level 3 autonomous vehicle operating system that can perform safely under a range of highway driving conditions. In total, two trucks with this equipment exist.
Trucking industry analysts and international media will be given the chance to ride in the two trucks on public roads near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Wednesday as the vehicle operates in autonomous mode.
"Freightliner Trucks does more than any other commercial truck manufacturer to integrate the truck, the driver and the business. The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is a case in point because it is not a driverless truck—the driver is a key part of a collaborative vehicle system," says Richard Howard, Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing, DTNA. "With the Freightliner Inspiration Truck, drivers can optimize their time on the road while also handling other important logistical tasks, from scheduling to routing. The autonomous vehicle technology not only contributes to improved safety and efficiency, but allows for improved communication through connectivity and integration."
The Freightliner Inspiration Truck operates on highways at what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines as Level 3 of autonomous vehicle capabilities, enabling the driver to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain traffic or environmental conditions. The autonomous vehicle system is responsible for maintaining legal speed, staying in the selected lane, keeping a safe braking distance from other vehicles, and slowing or stopping the vehicle based on traffic and road conditions. The vehicle monitors changes in conditions that require transition back to driver control when necessary in highway settings. The driver is in control of the vehicle for exiting the highway, on local roads and in docking for making deliveries.
"Freightliner is the recognized leader in developing trucks that improve Real Cost of OwnershipSM for our customers. The Cascadia Evolution redefined what was expected in terms of fuel efficiency, connectivity, safety, quality and uptime. And the Freightliner SuperTruck, unveiled at the recent Mid-America Trucking Show, shattered the goal set by the U.S. Department of Energy for heavy-duty Class 8 trucks by achieving an incredible 115 percent ton-miles per gallon freight efficiency improvement," says Diane Hames, General Manager, Sales & Marketing, DTNA. "And now, the Freightliner Inspiration Truck is yet another prime example of the infinite inspiration from the research and design team at DTNA when it comes to advancing our state-of-the-art commercial truck technology. We want to always have the best truck on the road, so we will never stop investing in our customers through the product we put on the road."
By bringing together the best minds at Daimler Trucks—the worldwide technological leader in the commercial vehicle business—the unveiling of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck showcases the possibilities of autonomous vehicles and advances an important discussion about the future of logistics and distribution across North America.