While our natural mistrust of a self-driving vehicle is probably misplaced (it seems that so far in the rigorous on-going testing, that most of any mishaps have, in the main, been caused by human error) how do you feel about a self-drive truck suddenly appearing in your rear mirror?

Well, in a month when Steven Spielberg’s classic horror-road move Duel gets a lavish Blu-ray rerelease, news also broke of the driverless Freightliner Inspiration.

freightliner inspiration driverless truck

Freightliner is under the ownership of Daimler, and the road legal Inspiration Truck is the first licensed autonomous truck to be able to operate on the public highway in the USA.

As with the driverless car, testing has been going on for a while and will continue to receive scrutiny for some time. Daimler has named their technology Highway Pilot, and says that the process will continue throughout a decade-long test phase. The company rather ostentatiously recently previewed the Inspiration autonomous truck on top of the Hoover Dam that sits on the Colorado River bordering Arizona and Nevada. This followed the granting of an autonomous vehicle license from Navada DMV.

freightliner inspiration hoover dam

As things stand, there is currently a big difference between the driverless car and the driverless truck though, as the technology in the truck is designed to assist the driver rather than replace him or her. Now it’s suddenly sounding like a much better idea isn’t it…

The long-standing danger of truck drivers trying to meet deadlines and staying behind the wheel for too long and succumbing to tiredness has been brought to our attention many times before, sometimes through horrific, news-grabbing events.

freightliner inspiration autonomous truck

The idea behind this technology is that the driverless tech’ will act as a kind of co-pilot for the human driver, if the truck needs assistance, it will alert the driver and if there is no response, the truck will ease itself to a safe halt on the side of the road.

Independent analysts have suggested that the benefits extend beyond the safety factor as well. Take away the human vagaries of unnecessary acceleration and braking and you may save 4-7% on fuel bills as well as vehicle maintenance costs over an estimated 80-100,000 miles.

freightliner inspiration

In an industry that is always trying to squeeze the maximum out of their vehicles and their drivers, it is no surprise that this technology has generated much support and interest.

I guess one good thing about a driverless truck appearing in your rear view mirror these days, is that you’re probably going to be less worried than Dennis Weaver was in 1971.

Images: freightlinerinspiration.com, gadget.channel5.com, designboom.com.

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