LAS VEGAS. Members of the press and other guests from 25 countries around the world gathered together this afternoon in a huge air-conditioned tent at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to see Nevada Governor, Brian Sandoval, officially present the first license for an autonomous commercial truck to operate on an open public highway in the United States to Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA). Then that autonomous truck (the “Freightliner Inspiration”) with Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG Daimler Trucks & Buses, at the wheel and the governor in the passenger seat “drove” out of the tent and into the hot sunlight of the future, just like that.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Nevada and DTNA are great partners,” Dr. Bernhard had noted earlier from the stage. And today Freightliner and the State of Nevada are introducing something really, really big. Today we show you the first commercial autonomous vehicle in the country, in the world, with an autonomous license plate authorizing its use on public roads.
“We stand with you today to make history,” Governor Sandoval observed. “This is a place people will return to and say, ‘I was there.’ It is an honor to be with you today.”
Legislation passed in 2011 and 2013 in Nevada regulates the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles. The legislation includes standards specifying the number of miles an autonomous vehicle must have been tested in certain conditions before it can be granted a license to be driven in Nevada. Daimler obtained a special permit from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles to operate the Freightliner Inspiration Truck on public roads near Las Vegas after supplying state officials with detailed information on the safety systems in the truck and the special training program for the drivers, who must also still have CDLs.
“Freightliner Trucks has been setting the standard for commercial vehicle design and technology for nearly 75 years,” said Dr. Bernhard. “We selected Nevada to unveil the Freightliner Inspiration Truck because it is one of only four states that require special licensing. Our goal was to not only showcase what is technologically possible, but to do it in a regulated environment with safety standards and other oversight requirements.”
Dr. Bernhard, however, stressed the fact that the license plate presented today is “not a testing license. We’ve done over 10,000 miles of testing and we believe [this truck] is ready to go,” he said.
That being said, Bernhard added that there is still more to be learned. We have to see how this performs in hot and cold and wet weather over time, he observed.
Martin Daum, DTNA president and CEO, hosted the event and shared some of the company’s rationale for taking on the autonomous truck project. “We pride ourselves on pushing the envelope,” he offered. This vehicle will improve efficiency, safety, connectivity and driver comfort and reduce emissions. It is a first step and it is important to take first steps.
Technically speaking, the Freightliner Inspiration is “partially automated, like an airplane,” Bernhard explained during the question and answer session; it is a Level 3 vehicle. The driver is still in charge.”
So, next time you are out seeing the sights in the Great State of Nevada, watch for a special Freightliner, Nevada license plate number AU 010.