LAS VEGAS — In a ceremony at Hoover Dam on Wednesday, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) unveiled the Freightliner Inspiration Truck to international news media, trucking industry analysts and officials.

The vehicle is the first licensed autonomous commercial truck to operate on an open public highway in the U.S., company officials said. Developed by engineers at DTNA, it is designed to unlock autonomous vehicle advancements that reduce accidents, improve fuel consumption, cut highway congestion and safeguard the environment.

DTNA is also the parent company of Thomas Built Buses.  

Some of the core autonomous vehicle systems in the concept vehicle are already successfully deployed in the current Freightliner Cascadia Evolution truck, company officials said.

The autonomous truck underwent extensive testing before the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles granted a license to operate it on public roads in the state, according to the company. On Tuesday, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval formally granted the license to operate the vehicle in the state, affixing a license plate to the truck and taking part in the ceremonial first drive of the truck in autonomous mode.

The truck is equipped with Highway Pilot sensors, and computer hardware is based upon a series production Freightliner Cascadia Evolution, fully certified to meet all U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, company officials said. The Highway Pilot links a set of camera technology and radar systems with lane stability, collision avoidance, speed control, braking, steering and other monitoring systems. This combination creates what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines as a Level 3 autonomous vehicle operating system that can perform safely under a range of highway driving conditions.

The operating system 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.

In total, two trucks with this equipment exist. Trucking industry analysts and international media were given the chance to ride in the two trucks on public roads near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Wednesday as the vehicle operated in autonomous mode.

“With the Freightliner Inspiration Truck, drivers can optimize their time on the road while also handling other important logistical tasks, from scheduling to routing,” said Richard Howard, DTNA's senior vice president, sales and marketing. “The autonomous vehicle technology not only contributes to improved safety and efficiency, but allows for improved communication through connectivity and integration.”

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