Daimler Trucks North America debuted its autonomous truck yesterday during a glitzy ceremony at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Governor Brian Sandoval presented an official license plate to Daimler’s Freightliner Inspiration Truck. The ceremony emphasized the safety advantages presented by driverless trucks along with reduced fuel consumption and emissions. Sandoval called the licensing “a historic moment.”
How Will Driverless Trucks Affect Truckers?
What does this mean for truck drivers? Not much for now. Experts do not expect to see trucks without humans on board on the road anytime soon. Nevada state law requires that a person be present in a driverless vehicle. However, businesses looking to cut costs will obviously be interested in completely driverless trucks as soon as legislation is in place and they are proved to be safe, which is expected to take a few million test miles.
The autonomy of the Freightliner Infinity is admittedly pretty limited, helping to ensure truckers won’t be out of a job anytime soon. Autonomous mode can only occur on the highway, leaving a human driver to take care of in-town driving. And if the truck encounters a situation like severe weather, it will beep to request that the human driver take over for it. If no driver responds to its request for help, the truck will slow and eventually stop.
Swift President Touts Advantages of Autonomous Trucks
And according to Swift Transportation president Richard Stocking, driverless trucks could make life easier for drivers. He said, “this definitely could be a win-win for the driver and the company he works for, to be able to do other things when he is in that autonomous mode”. Autonomous mode might actually turn the cab of a truck into a moving cubicle. Stocking said that drivers might now track deliveries or enter information about their loads into an iPad. He even hinted that this could increase driver wages because they would be paid for these extra tasks, not just for the number of miles that they cover.
Stocking also speculated that autonomous trucks might help to alleviate the driver shortage by luring a new generation into trucking. College students, for example, might operate an autonomous truck on the weekend as a part time job.
Nevada is one of only four states that have passed legislation regarding driverless vehicles. Daimler plans to use the Freightliner Inspiration Truck in Nevada’s least crowded counties initially.