A gladiator is getting new license plates. It's going to be taking to the highway in the U.S. state of Nevada. It's the only place where it's allowed to move freely.
And this is the big rig that's going to be wearing the plates. A Freightliner Inspiration Truck, outfitted with the Highway Pilot autonomous driving system, developed by Mercedes.
This truck is one of two autonomous trucks that have been licensed for public roads in regular traffic in Nevada. It's still a prototype. Eventually Mercedes plans to put driverless long-haul rigs into series production.
The first tests took place last year on a cordoned-off section of the German autobahn. Afterwards Mercedes continued testing the Highway Pilot, clocking up 16-thousand kilometers per vehicle on a test circuit, and configuring it for use on US highways.
Cameras offer the driver a view around the entire vehicle. When the driver activates the highway pilot, the truck takes over the steering. Currently that's allowed up to speeds of 60 miles an hour. The Highway Pilot lets the driver know when they need to step in, for example when there's a construction site or when the truck leaves the highway. In the meantime, the driver can do other things, like take orders or coordinate connections.
Wolfgang Bernhard of Daimler says we'll see self-driving trucks on long stretches of highway first, before driverless cars in the city. Highway traffic patterns on the highway are much less complex. And trucks are on the road for long hours each day, so the technology is more urgent and useful there. That gives the trucking industry an edge, but the regulatory framework isn't there yet. Road traffic regulations need to be adapted, and that raises a lot of questions. One issue is what conditions manufacturers need to meet to get a system licensed and street-legal. But discussions are underway with the regulatory authorities, and he's confident these issues will all be addressed in the next few years.