Self-driving cars are an exciting idea, but they're still a few years away both for technological and legal reasons. However, there is a self-driving vehicle that's on the road today, and it's a big one.
Freightliner has launched the "Inspiration Truck," which is a self-driving semi. I've told you before about Mercedes-Benz self-driving truck, but that one wasn't planned to be on the road anytime soon. Freightliner's model is on the road right now. It even has an "autonomous vehicle" license plate issued by the state of Nevada.
The Inspiration Truck uses Freightliner's Highway Pilot system that combines radar, cameras, adaptive cruise control and active braking. The system can read road signs, traffic signals and keep the truck on the road and away from other cars.
While this is only for highway driving, that's where most long-haul trucks spend most of their time. There does need to be a person behind the wheel, but they're only there in case something goes wrong and they need to take control.
Here's where the "driver" will spend most of their time.
There's also a nice lounging area in the back, at least in the demo version.
There's no word yet on how much more it will cost over a standard semi. However, given that semis move nearly 70% of U.S. freight, this could be a game-changer for freight companies.
An autonomous semi can drive more or less non-stop without the safety issues that human drivers have with lack of sleep or driving late at night. This will allow for faster, safer deliveries.
Plus, the Freightliner has a "platoon" system that lets several Freightliners automatically hook up in a convoy.
Do you think this is a good first step toward self-driving vehicles, or is it going to be a problem? Would you worry about driving next to an autonomous semi? Let me know in the comments.