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Published: 06 May 2015
The first ever self-driving lorry has now been licensed for commercial use, becoming the largest autonomous vehicle to hit the roads.
The self-driving HGV was manufactured by German company Daimler and they say the approval in the US state of Nevada is the first step towards transforming the road haulage industry as we know it.
The autonomous vehicle can handle long haul motorway driving which is the main cause of fatigue in HGV drivers. There will still need to be a driver present to take over any operation that is deemed too complicated for the on-board computer. These would include moving in and out of depots and driving through busy urban streets.
While the lorry is driving itself, the driver is then free to perform back office duties such as handling bookings, inventory, planning future itineraries or even trying to find a back load using an online freight exchange.
Daimler self-driving Freightliner in action.
Daimler executive Wolfgang Bernhard said "This is not a testing licence, this is a full operating licence. We believe that these vehicles and systems are ready."
The company has said the system must be "significantly safer than any human being" to be deemed successful.
The Daimler self-driving HGV has already undergone over 10,000 miles of testing. The company said it went with the desert state of Nevada due to European governments being slow to approve regulations for similar vehicles.
Nevada is also one of the first US states to allow autonomous passenger cars on the road.
In order for the technology to develop in the future it is likely that roads and motorways will need to be adapted in order to support a large number of autonomous vehicles. If anything, this means that Daimler’s autonomous truck technology may advance faster than most countries are ready for.
Is this a glimpse in to the future of road haulage? Will a HGV driver eventually be replaced by a more customer service or back office role?
With up to 5,000 new loads per day, saving over 250 million miles per year, the impact for the UK's Carbon footprint alone is huge.