There’s been a lot of talk lately about man versus machine. Autonomous driving is not a new topic. There are over five million licensed professional truck drivers on the road and real jobs are at stake.
Let’s face it, you love the road. There’s a reason you’re a truck driver. You don’t want some machine coming in and taking your job. Well don’t worry, because they aren’t likely to. The latest autonomous concept truck is designed with you in mind.
State Support for Autonomous Trucks
Although the Freightliner Inspiration is still a concept truck, and only two have been built so far, it now has a license to drive on Nevada roads. Previously the truck has only been tested on private roads, but now it’s ready for a major debut on public streets.
Even Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval was on hand to put a license plate on the truck, grant it legal status to operate in the state, and climb aboard for the first drive. Consider Nevada was also the first state to grant a license for the autonomous Google Car, it makes sense to be the trendsetter for autonomous trucks as well.
Nevada is a state that has vast stretches of empty roads, so testing an autonomous truck there is a logical choice. With safety as a prime concern, barren stretches of road devoid of heavy concentrations of cars makes for a great testing ground.
How It Works
To the casual observer the Inspiration looks like a normal semi-truck. From the LED ambient lights to the grille and general aerodynamic structure, you wouldn’t know this is a highly advanced concept vehicle.
Pull the metal back and look under its skin and you’ll find this to be a truly impressive specimen of modern machinery. The Inspiration is equipped with a complex suite of computer software, hardware, and sensors. Combined, this cutting edge machinery grants the Inspiration a Level 3 Autonomous Vehicle certification.
This rolling lab uses production ready sensors that calibrate for speed, lane stability, braking, steering, and collision avoidance. You’ll find a short-range radar directly behind the grille. It scans out to 230 feet over a 180-degree arc. Another long-range unit has an 820 foot scanning radius that sweeps in a 180-degree arc.
According to design specs, blind spots are significantly reduced and wind drag is cut by a fourth. Fuel efficiency is increased by 1.5 percent through an advanced interface that also helps drivers with route planning and freight logistics. There are quite a few significant selling points for a vehicle of this type.
Why You Need It
According to Freightliner, the Inspiration is able to stay in its lane and avoid collisions on designated routes with absolutely no input from the driver. This is especially important when addressing driver fatigue.
Imagine truck drivers having ample time to rest as the truck traverses dark roads with little traffic. Not tired? As the truck drives itself you could be doing paperwork, trip planning, or even relaxing for a moment in the cab.
Beyond trucker comforts, automated trucks could also provide significant fuel savings. Imagine a platoon of them communicating electronically with each other. By electronically measuring distance, automated platoons could significantly reduce aerodynamic drag.
Your Job is Safe
For those of you concerned that this concept vehicle is signaling the end of trucking as you know it, fear not. The Inspiration is designed to require human input at all times.
The only time the vehicle is equipped to drive itself is on limited access interstate roads. And even then, human observation is still necessary. On city, suburban, and heavy access roads, the truck can only be operated by a human driver.
So before you start to lose your hair over autonomous trucks putting you out of a job, keep in mind that humans are great at making things easier without depriving themselves of purpose. Sleep well at night knowing that computers won’t put you out of work, they’ll just make it a lot easier.