Special scaffolding was constructed along the steep side of the Colorado River gorge at the Hoover Dam on the Nevada-Arizona border to contain a crowd including 300 members of the media from 25 countries around the world, as The Trucker News Services writes on The Trucker. The journalists were assembled on Tuesday night to see what Daimler Trucks calls the first-ever self-driving semi-truck licensed to drive on public roads, writes Associated Press in an article appearing on Fox News.
Daimler Trucks North America LLC debuted the big rig — called the Freightliner Inspiration — with a drive (and a driver steering) atop the Hoover Dam, AP writes. Nevada has granted Daimler a license to test the large trucks on public roads, writes Nick Carey for Reuters in an article appearing on Business Insider.
Taking a line from astronaut Neil Armstrong, Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard of Daimler Trucks and Buses told the crowd bused to the site from Las Vegas for the news conference that they were about to witness ‘a short drive for man and a long haul for mankind.’
Invited members of the media would be given test drives on Wednesday, AP writes.
Martin Daum, CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, called the demo a first step, saying the technology still needs to be perfected, and there are legal and philosophical questions to hash out before such trucks can be brought to market, AP writes. Daimler has no intention of laying off its drivers when the trucks come into production, Daum said; rather, the drivers will be considered on-board logistics managers. Daum punctuated that by saying that although society might forgive a certain number of deaths caused by drowsy truck drivers, they would never forgive even a single fatal crash blamed on a fully automated rig, AP writes. “Ninety percent of commercial truck accidents are due to driver error and one in eight of those are due to driver fatigue,” said Bernhard, who is Freightliner head of Trucks and Buses, as Antuan Goodwin writes for CNET.
Daimler believes that long before autonomous passenger cars are “cruising around in the suburbs,” self-driving heavy trucks will be running on interstate highways,Bernhard said, as AP writes. That is because on highways, there are no intersections, red lights, or pedestrians, all of which add to the complexity that self-driving cars have to master, Bernhard said.
Before fleets of self-driving trucks appear on U.S. highways, there needs to be more testing of self-driving vehicles, Bernhard said, as AP writes. So far, only Nevada, Florida, California, Michigan, and the District of Columbia allow the use of autonomous cars on public roads, writes Goodwin. “Many more [bills] are in legislation, but remain in a legal gray area where autonomy is concerned,” Goodwin adds.