At a ceremony at the Hoover Dam last Wednesday, the first self-driving truck safe for US roads was unveiled.
The Inspiration Truck, as it was named by US manufacturer Daimler, is said to be safer, have lower fuel costs, and will help drivers be well rested. The trucks were first investigated by Engineers as easier solutions to journeys which repeatedly use the same routes and encounter fewer people or vehicles than other, more dangerous journeys.
Some private zones of land already use driverless tricks, including the US military ground in Texas and an iron ore site in Western Australia. What makes the Inspiration different to these examples is its clearance to drive on highways with other, manned vehicles on the streets of Nevada. Engineer Patrick Vogel at the Free University of Berlin argues that rather than this being seen as a risk, it should be seen as a benefit. He states that cars do not get tired, they don’t have emotions, and they are at less risk for fault than humans.
This is backed up by Stanford University research which concludes that 90% of road accidents are caused by human error rather than mechanical faults. The Inspiration can change lanes, speed, and avoid collisions, and automatically complies with speed limits. The trucks will have drivers behind the wheel, largely passive, but ready to jump in in case of a lane change or unexpected hazard.
As the trucks are not totally autonomous, Psychology students should think on how this might impact the reactions and dependency of truck drivers in this semi-autonomous vehicles.
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