Freightliner Gets First License for Autonomous-Driving Truck (with video)

Freightliner Trucks

LAS VEGAS — Freightliner Trucks has received the first license in the United States for an autonomous-driving truck to operate on public highways from Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The Freightliner Inspiration was previewed for the media at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on May 5, an occasion Sandoval hailed as “a historic day in the areas of transportation and innovation” and a “monumental day for the human race.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Images of Inspiration Truck

The truck was partially camouflaged at the afternoon event, with a full unveiling taking place in a spectacular evening ceremony at Hoover Dam that included a video presentation on the wall of the dam and the arrival of Inspiration Truck itself, driving across the top of the dam.

On May 6, trucking industry analysts and media got a chance to ride in the Inspiration Truck on public roads near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway while the vehicle operated in autonomous mode.

ABC's "Good Morning, America" broadcast a live segment on Inspiration Truck on the morning of May 6 as it rode down a Nevada highway at 57 mph.

Sandoval presented the license plate and then took part in the inaugural trip of the Inspiration with Wolfgang Bernhard, the head of Daimler AG’s global trucks and buses division, at the controls.

The governor said he was “100% confident” with the technology and safety of the vehicle, which was extensively tested prior to granting licensing approval.

As he did last year in Germany in unveiling the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025, Bernhard touted the safety benefits of an autonomous system “that never gets tired.”

He cited the high percentage of truck-involved accidents that include driver fatigue and that studies show a significant reduction in drowsiness when operating in autonomous mode.

Martin Daum, president of Daimler Trucks North America, said the Inspiration sets “new benchmarks in safety, connectivity and driver comfort.”

Daum praised Sandoval’s business sense since taking office in 2011.

“It is only thanks to your open-mindedness we can be here today for our world premiere,” he said.

Many details of the vehicle and Freightliner’s future plans were not addressed during the preview event, with company officials saying more would be shared during a full day of demonstrations and test drives May 6.

(Check back with and the May 11 print edition of Transport Topics for updates.)

However, Bernhard suggested no other infrastructure is required, other than “nice white strips” on the highway. He also indicated that the vehicle does not yet perform as well in cold weather.

Speaking at Hoover Dam, Bernhard said the truck would "inspire our customers and the whole world.” He added: “One-hundred twenty years after inventing the truck, we are inventing it all over again.”

Nevada was targeted for the launch of the Inspiration because it is one of four states, plus the District of Columbia, with laws regulating autonomous-vehicle operation.

DTNA is the parent company of Freightliner and Western Star Trucks as well as Detroit-brand engines, transmissions and axles.