| LAS VEGAS
LAS VEGAS May 5 Nevada has given Daimler AG
, the world's biggest truck maker, the go-ahead to
test its self-driving heavy freight truck for the first time on
the open road in ordinary traffic, the two sides announced on
"Today is history," Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, a
Republican, said before posing with Daimler board member
Wolfgang Bernhard with a red license plate for the self-driving
truck at an event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Daimler has previously shown off its prototype autonomous
truck in Europe on a closed section of German autobahn. The
truck maker says self-driving, or autonomous, trucks will help
freight companies save money on fuel and increase safety on the
Bernhard said in order to get the nod from Nevada the truck,
which will be under its Freightliner brand, underwent 10,000
miles of testing. The vehicle will now undergo testing under
real road conditions, he said.
"We think we are making an important first step in the right
direction," Bernhard said. "You need to have dreams."
Daimler, which with its Mercedes brand has been at the
forefront of German efforts to counter Google's
advances in driverless cars, says it sees at least as much
potential for automation in freight transportation.
Daimler is also not alone in pushing automation technology
for heavy-duty trucks. Sweden's Scania, a unit of Volkswagen
, is among peers working on "platooning" technology
that allows several trucks to travel in tight convoy with a sole
human driver in the lead vehicle.
In a presentation to journalists, Bernhard said some 90
percent of road accidents are due to human error, which
autonomous trucks could greatly reduce especially as global
freight volumes are expected to triple by 2050.
Daimler has previously said its truck model still requires
human oversight while freeing the driver to perform back-office
tasks such as handling bookings and billing, or planning future
itineraries. Bernhard on Tuesday compared this to putting a
plane on auto pilot.
Autonomous driving proponents, however, face the challenges
of meeting safety concerns while convincing lawmakers that
accident liability can still be established. They are also
expected to fuel conflicts with freight driver unions.
Martin Daum, chief executive of Daimler Trucks North
America, acknowledged the hurdles that autonomous trucks face
"Before mass production, the liability issue has to be
addressed," Daum said.
(Reporting By Nick Carey; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)