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Are Self-Driving Semis About to Hit the American Road, Too?

Photo of a busy road at night

In the past few years, the idea of self-driving cars populating our city streets and roadways has become more of a reality than a concept. In fact – from Google to Apple to some of the world’s major auto makers – development is advancing so rapidly that most experts say it’s just a matter of time before self-driving cars are offered for sale to the public. And, now, they’ve taken the next step – a self-driving semi – which is bound to bring up an interesting issue when rating auto insurance.

Daimler’s Freightliner truck unit isn’t giving the auto insurance aspect much thought as it wants to push long-haul trucking in the same direction as self-driving cars. Atop the Hoover Dam, the Freightliner Inspiration Truck was unveiled as the first semi granted a license in the United States for autonomous driving, for tests on Nevada highways.

The two Inspiration Trucks built by Freightliner are equipped with an array of cameras and radars, along with extensive software controls. They can steer in a lane, maintain speeds and brake without human intervention at highway speeds. In addition, they also have to know when and under what situation to alert the driver to take control; that driver, of course, has to handle all non-highway duties as well, including when to stop at weigh stations.

While this isn’t Freightliner’s first foray into the concept truck arena, the Inspiration models are far less dramatic and futuristic. According to Freightliner execs, such models will eventually reach production – mostly because many of the same anticipated benefits of self-driving cars – improved safety and better fuel efficiency – also apply to commercial vehicles. After all, in the business world, cost matters most, and given how the technology is still in its development and testing stages, the full cost benefits remain hypothetical.

Not to be overlooked is the issue of people who earn their living driving trucks, and what such an advanced machine could mean for them in a negative aspect. However, Freightliner was quick to emphasize in its demo of the new semis that the Inspiration trucks were not close to being driver-free machines. On the contrary, they went on to say that drivers of future production models can use the driverless technology to optimize their time on the road while also handling other important logistical tasks, from scheduling to routing.

Still, long-haul trucking isn’t a sit back “and leave the driving to us” type of office job yet. But, the Inspiration truck could be a sign of things to come in the not too distant future…and, the self-driving car will have to share the road with its much bigger counterpart – the self-driving 18-wheeler.

Given the risk of such a large self-driving vehicle operating on the nation’s highways, making sure you have the proper coverage and the best auto insurance rates available take on more importance. Why not get a free auto insurance quote comparison today?

How do you feel knowing the semi in the lane beside you could be a self-driving truck? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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