• 2015 Freightliner Inspiration Truck

Daimler Trucks has just announced the U.S.’ first autonomous truck, the Freightliner Inspiration. The truck has been granted a license for road use in Nevada, allowing Daimler to further test the truck’s systems and abilities to self-drive along the highway.

This isn’t Daimler’s first autonomous truck, however. 2014 Saw the automaker demonstrate the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 as it drove along the A14 autobahn near Magdeburg, Germany. It’s technology from that truck that has crossed the Atlantic – and through some rigorous recalibration for U.S. roads – and into the Freightliner Inspiration. It’s called Highway Pilot.

Daimler says the autonomous truck is designed to help ease the stress on long-haul drivers, as well as reduce traffic congestion and improve the truck’s overall fuel efficiency thanks to the computer-controlled driving. The company makes it clear the truck isn’t a replacement for drivers, saying the self-driving aspect is relegated to highway use and the driver is needed for rural and urban roads.

In fact, Daimler sees the driver’s roll actually becoming more important. During highway sprints, drivers can attend to other tasks, or even become “transport managers” – making the trucking career more attractive.

So how does the Freightliner Inspiration work? Continue reading for all the details.

Continue reading for the whole story.

  • 2015 Freightliner Inspiration Truck
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • Engine:
    inline-6(Est.)
  • Transmission:
    12-speed automated manual (Est.)
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    505 (Est.)
  • Torque @ RPM:
    1750 (Est.)
  • Energy:
    turbodiesel
  • Displacement:
    14.8 L (Est.)
  • 0-60 time:
    15.0 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    110 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    190000 (Est.)
  • car segment:
  • body style:

The Technology

2015 Freightliner Inspiration Truck
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2015 Freightliner Inspiration Truck
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2015 Freightliner Inspiration Truck
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It’s on the outside that the majority of the technology can be seen. Within the gap between the bumper and the grille lies a radar unit. This radar monitors the road ahead with two sets of sensors: one long-range and one short-range. The long-range sensor monitors traffics as far out as 820 feet in a narrow, 18-degreen field of view while the close-range sensor monitors 230 feet ahead of the truck in a wider, 130-degree field of view. The system constitutes the Adaptive Cruise Control portion of the autonomous system. This radar system is very similar to one found in the standard production Freightliner Cascadia Evolution.

Monitoring the road is stereo camera mounted behind the windshield. The camera monitors the 328 feet that’s ahead of the truck, reading speed limit signs, pavement markings, and communicating with the truck’s steering to keep it within the traffic lane. Put together, the Highway Pilot system uses its radar Adaptive Cruise Control and stereo camera to autonomously drive the truck.

However, the driver is still in charge of the system

However, the driver is still in charge of the system. Once the truck is safely on the highway, the system alerts the driver that the Highway Pilot is available. Once engaged, the system keeps up with traffic, maintains a safe following distance, obeys traffic laws, and maintains its lane. Passing, driving in bad weather, and through a construction zone must be handled by the driver. Thick traffic on the highway such as stop-and-go situations, are however, handled by the Highway Pilot system.

Yet another aspect of the Highway Pilot system is what Daimler calls “Platooning.” If two trucks are traveling down the highway together, the trucks will communicate with each other, allowing the first truck to alert and automatically apply brakes to both trucks if needed. What’s more, the second truck will automatically follow the lead truck at a certain distance, creating a aerodynamic streamlining effect and improving fuel mileage on both trucks. It’s basically drafting like in NASCAR. Check out the video below.


Exterior

2015 Freightliner Inspiration Truck
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2015 Freightliner Inspiration Truck
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2015 Freightliner Inspiration Truck
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Perhaps the coolest aspect of the truck’s outward design is its lights.

The Freightliner Inspiration puts the Semi Truck’s looks on steroids. Its sleek design help cut wind resistance while adding plenty of forward thinking design details. Its slanted front end features a low-riding bumper, narrow grille openings, and integrated headlights. Behind the hood lies a more traditional cab from the Freightliner Cascadia Evolution. Down low, Daimler added long skirts over the fuel tanks and rear wheels in an effort to further reduce aerodynamic drag.

Perhaps the coolest aspect of the truck’s outward design is its lights. During autonomous driving, the LEDs on the license plate, side indicators, and between the grille slats glow blue. During conventional driving, they glow white and yellow.

Interior

2015 Freightliner Inspiration Truck
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2015 Freightliner Inspiration Truck
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2015 Freightliner Inspiration Truck
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The Inspiration features a fully digital gauge cluster

Inside the Freightliner Inspiration, things look like a swanky RV more than a commercial truck. Hardwood planks line the floor while white leather with French stitching lines much of the space including the seats, dashboard, and rear sleeping quarters. The roomy cabin offers plenty of storage space and room to get comfortable between hauls.

Behind the wheel, the Inspiration features a fully digital gauge cluster. The display changes both appearance and color when the Highway Pilot mode is active, letting the driver monitor the ride. The digital experience continues with large virtual mirror displays attached the A-pillars. The screens show multiple camera angles from around the truck. Also at the driver’s fingertips is a tablet PC that detaches from the dashboard.

Drivetrain

2015 Freightliner Inspiration Truck
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The engine comes in various tunes, but can make up to 505 horsepower and 1,750 pound-feet of torque

Though Daimler makes no reference to the Freightliner Inspiration’s powerplant, the truck is based off the standard Freightliner Cascadia Evolution. Under its hood lies a Detroit Diesel DD15, inline six-cylinder turbodiesel that displaces a massive 14.8 liters. The engine comes in various tunes, but can make up to 505 horsepower and 1,750 pound-feet of torque. The engine uses Mercedes’ BlueTec aftertreatment system to keep exhaust emissions down. A Jake brake helps bring things to a relatively quick stop.

Power is routed through the optional Detroit DT12 Automated Manual Transmission that features 12 forward speeds. The transmission features the traditional inner workings of a manual transmission, but its clutch and shift lever are computer controlled to promote easy driving and increased efficiency. The tranny also includes Skip Shift, which allows the transmission to skip gears when the extra torque isn’t needed, along with eCoast, a function that disengages the transmission during coasting that is designed to save fuel.

Prices

2015 Freightliner Inspiration Truck
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Daimler hasn’t announced pricing on the Inspiration truck, but that doesn’t stop us from speculating. The Cascadia Evolution on which the Inspriation is based has a MSRP ranging in the $130,000 to $160,000 neighborhood. Expect the price to have a nice $30,000 mark-up for the Highway Pilot system. That’s still just a guess, however.

Competition

Daimler SuperTruck

2015 Daimler SuperTruck
- image 624294

There’s not too many trucks out there competing in the autonomous category, so the Daimler SuperTruck concept is a bit of a stretch as a competitor. The SuperTruck, developed, obviously, by the same company as the Inspiration, centers more on fuel efficiency than self-driving. The truck uses tons of large and small changes to inch its mpg rating further up the charts. Most recently, the SuperTruck concept averaged 12.2 mpg over a 312-mile test loop on the open interstate.
Read our full review here

Conclusion

2015 Freightliner Inspiration Truck
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The Freightliner Inspiration seems like an honest and legitimate step in the direction of an autonomous truck. The Highway Pilot system has already proven itself over thousands of miles of testing with many hundreds of thousands to come. It will be interesting to see how this technology develops and is integrated into the trucking business.

It’s also likely the Inspiration truck will live up to its name – sparking other truck makers to explore self-driving systems of their own. Perhaps we’re not too far out from seeing a huge shake-up in the trucking industry.

  • Leave it
    • Likely very expensive
    • Still in its infancy
Mark McNabb
Mark McNabb was a contributor at TopSpeed from 2013 to 2018. Growing up, Mark always had a mind for tinkering on random items throughout his home and dad’s garage, including a 1953 Ford Mainline and 1971 Corvette Stingray.  Read full bio
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