Freightliner Autonomous Truck First Licensed for U.S. Highways

May 5, 2015

By Deborah Lockridge

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Reporters try to grab photo and video of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck as it heads out on its inaugural autonomous run. Photo: Stephane Babcock
Reporters try to grab photo and video of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck as it heads out on its inaugural autonomous run. Photo: Stephane Babcock

"Thank you for looking at the impossible and finding a safe way to make it possible."

That's what Nevada Gov. Brian Sondoval said to Daimler Trucks North America officials when he officially granted the first license for an autonomous commercial truck to operate on an open public highway in the United States. "Today we come together to celebrate innovation, safety and the future."

Reporters from around the world were shown the new license plate with great fanfare. However, they got only a glimpse of the new autonomous truck, dubbed the Freightliner Inspiration Truck, before it drove away at the event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Tuesday, its nose still camouflaged. A special event in the evening will bring more details.

"Never has there been such a truck on public roads until today," said DTNA President and CEO Martin Daum.

The first autonomous truck license plate in the U.S. Photo: Daimler
The first autonomous truck license plate in the U.S. Photo: Daimler

The truck left the Speedway with Gov. Sandoval as a passenger in the inaugural trip in autonomous mode, with Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, head of Daimler Trucks & Buses, at the controls.

“Nevada is proud to be making transportation history today by hosting the first U.S. public highway drive for a licensed autonomous commercial truck," said Gov. Sandoval. "The application of this innovative technology to one of America’s most important industries will have a lasting impact on our state and help shape the New Nevada economy.

"The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has been closely monitoring the advancements being made in autonomous vehicle development and reviewed DTNA’s safety, testing and training plans before granting permission for this demonstration of the Freightliner Inspiration Truck.”

Nevada was selected as the demonstration location because it is one of four states, plus the District of Columbia, with laws regulating autonomous vehicle operation. Nevada legislation passed in 2011 and 2013 regulates the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles. The legislation includes commercial trucks and sets standards specifying the number of miles an autonomous vehicle must have been tested in certain conditions before it can be granted a license to be driven in Nevada.

Daimler obtained a special permit from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles to operate the Freightliner Inspiration Truck on public roads near Las Vegas after supplying state officials with detailed information on the safety systems in the truck and the training program for the drivers.

Nevada Gov. Bob Sandoval, left, and Daimler's Wolfgang Bernhard, right, show off the first autonomous truck license plate in the U.S. Photo: Stephane Babcock
Nevada Gov. Bob Sandoval, left, and Daimler's Wolfgang Bernhard, right, show off the first autonomous truck license plate in the U.S. Photo: Stephane Babcock

In July of last year, Daimler Trucks provided the world´s first demonstration of an autonomous truck in action when the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 drove along a cordoned-off section of the A14 autobahn near Magdeburg.

Bernhard explained that the Inspiration Truck will allow the driver to take his feet off the pedals and his hands off the steering wheel, similar to an airplane. "Still the driver still monitors and is in charge of what happens," he said in response to a reporter's question. "The system is much easier for him, is much less fatiguing, and makes his life and his job much more attractive."

A step in the future, he said, would be to get the driver off his monitoring task and allow him to do other things, he said, but that's further out.

The only infrastructure needed for efficient operation of the autonomous Inspiration Truck, Bernhard said, are good stripes and lane markings so the truck's camera can see them.

Daum emphasized that this is "the very first step" and that there will be hundreds more steps before we see autonomous vehicles being mass-produced and driving coast to coast. For one thing, he said, before that can happen, "the liability question has to be addressed by regulators, and we will bring very good arguments" to that process, he said.

Approximately 200 journalists from around the world are in Las Vegas for the event. A live feed will be streaming starting at 11 p.m. EDT/8 p.m. Pacific time.

For more information, visit


  1. 1. Mr Truck [ May 05, 2015 @ 01:46PM ]

    I'm guessing bigger cup holders....

  2. 2. Robert [ May 05, 2015 @ 04:33PM ]

    Whyour the big condo sleeper? Them robots need sleep?

  3. 3. Larry Heister [ May 05, 2015 @ 05:47PM ]

    Wow, at this rate we can ride unicycles without any wheels.;-)

  4. 4. Larry E. Heister [ May 05, 2015 @ 05:48PM ]

    Wow, at this rate we can ride unicycles without any wheels.;-)

  5. 5. [email protected] [ May 05, 2015 @ 06:50PM ]

    At this rate who needs professional truck drivers, maybe the next step is to get the truck to load and unload trailers and fuel itself and check and add it own fluids and do its pretrip, and postrip, and logs

  6. 6. ed [ May 05, 2015 @ 07:27PM ]

    If it is driverless... it only means one thing... no one to protect it from getting highjacked.

  7. 7. Steve [ May 06, 2015 @ 06:21AM ]

    That video was a waste of a half an hour of my life that I will never get back.

  8. 8. Sharon Imafidon [ May 06, 2015 @ 06:27AM ]

    Hats Off! Thank you for Freightliner Trucks inspirations, Daimler, and Self-Driving vehicles innovations, ideas, improvements, safety (the way the front lights up at night) fuel economy, and technology for sustaining and supplying the environment with efficient trucking transportation and resources, and the needs of taking care of people all over the world, now and in the future. Great incentive! I am impressed!

  9. 9. Kurt Fackler [ May 06, 2015 @ 07:13AM ]

    Yuck. The headlong rush to replacing humans with robots is disturbing on many levels. No value on the process of "decision" or "values."

    Is a digital dehumanized future optimzed for human condition or corporate titans? Yes, right now it's "just drivers" getting displaced. Who's next and who will speak up for them?

    Is there really arrogance huge enough to beleive themselves unreplaceable by algorithms?

  10. 10. Cj carl [ May 06, 2015 @ 02:48PM ]

    I can not believe any one would stand up for that its so wrong in many ways iam a truck driver myself and I wouldn't feel safe in a truck like that . we already have enough steering wheel holders in the world we don't need a truck just so they can get more lazy there's way to much computer things on that truck fuck all that I don't care about the tree huggers put straight pipes on it turn up that motor and no governor and pour out the black smoke and roll on making that truck work for u. Get rid of the emmisions bullshit and let it run like a truck that has balls

  11. 11. Common Sense [ May 06, 2015 @ 06:14PM ]

    Yes, thanks Daimler, for brainwashing more senseless politicians into thinking that we need more machines that do more of the driver's job than the driver himself (or herself, for all you politically correct fans). Everyday, I hear of more regulations, more safety features on trucks, more BS from EPA about making trucks greener, and now a damn self-driving truck. How ignorant can we become as a civilized society? Trucks are statistically the safest vehicles on the road, but the Feds need more money, so we get more regulations and negative press, therefore, we have a driver shortage, therefore, we start putting drivers in trucks that are fresh out of a driving school that have no business even riding in a truck, therefore, we get more crashes, more regs, more safety features, and less drivers than before. What is the world's answer to a driver shortage? A fucking truck that drives itself! I'm so glad we are a civilized nation.

  12. 12. Josh [ May 17, 2015 @ 11:19AM ]

    I don't get what everyone's complaint about this is. Fact is there are tons of drivers that are unsafe in their driving practices. It's not just fresh driving school recruits either. Older drivers who still have that outlaw trucker mentality are often some of the worst drivers I run into. They simply think they own the road and have no respect. This system would keep the truck in it's lane (only times I've come close to an accident was from a driver swerving) and could potentially keep the truck at the speed limit so drivers stop looking at it as a suggestion (really, how do you guys justify throwing away money if you get a ticket?). There are many more benefits to a system like this, but a driver would still be required to be at the wheel just in case at all times, just like pilots. They haven't suffered from the invention of autopilot. Our jobs are secure, they just might get a little less dangerous.

    Not that it matters anyways. After having to put up with a Meritor anti - collision device, I can say that a simple camera /radar setup isn't enough. That damn thing has almost gotten me killed twice, both times with nothing I could see on the road going around a curve. I think we are at least fifteen years if not thirty from having the technology to properly implement this without a major industry overhaul.

  13. 13. Reny [ June 18, 2015 @ 09:35AM ]

    Wow I can't believe the response from the opponent's. Well I suppose it is only human nature, so as history taught us, the innovators have to drag all the nay sayers along kicking and screaming. I for one see a world where trucks drive themselves over the highway from depot to depot within 3 to 5 years. We just have to allow all the laws to catch up to the new auto pilots. Oh sure there will be bugs to workout but it will be awsome when it finally gets here.


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