This is a truck in which the driver can finally let go – at least of the steering wheel. That is because this is the first road-approved truck for autonomous operation.
Autonomous driving is made possible by the Highway Pilot, which took a further step towards production maturity with the unveiling of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck. The Inspiration Truck made its grand debut at the Hoover Dam. The location was chosen not just because of the breathtaking backdrop: without the help of countless trucks, this monumental structure would never have been built.
But what makes this vehicle so exceptional? After all, Daimler unveiled the first autonomously driving truck around one year before: the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025. The answer: whereas Mercedes-Benz's concept vehicle is initially confined to driving on closed-off areas, the Inspiration Truck is already approved for use on public roads. It is based on the Freightliner Cascadia Evolution series production model, thousands of which can be seen on US roads. And it is approved for autonomous driving on public highways in Nevada.
The number of trucks on the roads across the world is constantly growing. Yet there are fewer and fewer new entrants to the truck-driving profession. Clearly, the job is stressful, often monotonous and the prospects of promotion are limited. There is a long-term need to rethink. Firstly, in order to increase the safety of all road users through the use of intelligent technologies. Secondly, in order to take pressure off the drivers and make their job more attractive by assigning them other tasks. Last but not least, the total cost of ownership (TCO) plays an important role in the transport industry. The high degree of automation lowers the TCO even further.
To transform the Cascadia into the Inspiration Truck, the engineers added Highway Pilot technology to the basic vehicle and adapted it for use on US highways. And because Daimler has a global presence, there was close cooperation between our engineers in Germany and the USA. The experience they gathered with the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 also found its way into the Inspiration Truck. The goal they set themselves – official approval – was achieved: in May 2015, the state of Nevada licensed two Freightliner Inspiration Trucks for normal operation on public roads. In addition to the Highway Pilot, the Inspiration Truck and its European brother, the Future Truck, also have something in common on the visual front: in normal operation, the radiator grille is illuminated in white. And other road users can tell that autonomous mode has been activated by the fact that the colour of the light changes to blue. The same coloured-light principle applies to Daimler's autonomously driving car, the Mercedes-Benz F015 research vehicle.