In a ceremony at Hoover Dam last week, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) unveiled the Freightliner Inspiration Truck, what it says is the first licensed autonomous commercial truck to operate on an open public highway in the U.S.

The vehicle promises to reduce accidents, improve fuel consumption, cut highway congestion, and have less of an environmental impact than other trucks.

The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles granted it a license to operate on public roads in the state. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval affixed a license plate to the truck and took part in the ceremonial first drive.

In 2012, Nevada was the first state to approve a license for Google to test its autonomous car.

Daimler Freightliner Inspiration Truck Source:
Daimler Freightliner Inspiration Truck

The Freightliner Inspiration Truck is not driverless. Its highway pilot technology links together cameras and radar with lane stability, collision avoidance, speed control, braking, steering and other monitoring systems. This combination creates what is called a Level 3 autonomous vehicle operating system that enables 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.

The driver is a key part of a collaborative vehicle system, according to Richard Howard, senior vice president, 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,” he said. “The autonomous vehicle technology not only contributes to improved safety and efficiency, but allows for improved communication through connectivity and integration.”

Other manufacturers are also developing vehicles that partially automate driving but do not eliminate drivers completely.

Also, while the DTNA exhibit is the first on roads in the U.S., Australia mining firms have been using driverless trucks for hauling at iron ore mines.

DTNA unveiled two trucks with this equipment.

Trucking industry analysts and 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 is a division of Daimler Trucks North America, headquartered in Portland, Oregon.