As much as the world seems to be excited about driverless car developments, not everyone believes that consumers will drive that sort of automated technology forward. Daimler for example thinks that trucks which drive themselves around will really pioneer that sort of locomotion. To that end, it’s just received permission by local authorities to begin testing its self-piloted 18 wheelers on public roads throughout Nevada.
This is quite a different test from the ones being conducted in the UK. While here, the likes of the Lutz pods and Meridian shuttles are being trialled in inner cities, where they have to deal with other cars, pedestrians and even small animals like dogs, the Nevada highways are empty in comparison. With low volumes of traffic, mostly straight roadways and near guaranteed clear weather day in day out, Daimler has a lot of confidence that its lorries will perform well.
Previously they have been used to test automation by traversing the roads around the Hoover Dam. There an on board driver did need to correct the course that the automated software was taking in a couple of instances, but only when the road became particularly twisty. It’s hoped that with the less complicated highways of Nevada under their tyres, that the lorries will not need any coaching at all – though a driver will still be present just in case something does go awry.
However just because they’re likely to fair well when tested, doesn’t mean these lorries are ready for consumers. In-fact, Daimler predicts so much more needs to be done to make them truly road-worthy, that the automated lorries may not become available until as late as 2025, when the first driverless cars are thought likely to go on sale. In comparison, motorway-only driverless cars could be released as soon as 2017, though whether legislation will allow for completely relaxed motorway travel remains to be seen.
Much of what Daimler is working on in the background now though is pricing, which involves making the automated tech as useful, but as affordable as possible. While it is likely to be expensive up front, Daimler and similar companies are expected to try and sell the technology based on the fact that buyers wouldn’t need to pay a driver. That would mean lorries could travel all night and all day without stopping for anything and wouldn’t require a salary either – though presumably someone would need to be paid to maintain the new tech.
Image source: Daimler