Daimler says Nevada license to help self-drive trucks gain traction

Wed May 6, 2015 5:59am EDT
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By Nick Carey

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Daimler has been granted a license by the U.S. state of Nevada to test self-driving trucks on public roads, as the United States and Europe race to establish a regulatory framework for autonomous vehicles.

While companies such as Google have dominated the headlines with advances in driverless cars, Daimler board member Wolfgang Bernhard told reporters autonomous trucks were likely to hit the roads first.

That is partly because more trucks operate "in a less complicated traffic environment" out on the open road, while passenger cars spend more time in urban areas, he said.

Truck operators also have a big financial incentive to adopt the technology, as it would bring savings in wages and fuel.

"It makes the most sense to them," Bernard said in Las Vegas on Tuesday. "These guys have to make money."

Despite making significant progress with the technology, automakers face a battle to bring their advance prototype vehicles to market in Europe and the United States due to regulatory hurdles and questions about product liability.

The "tipping point" to commercial viability of autonomous trucks will be reached when enough U.S. States allow them on their roads to make inter-state commerce viable, Bernhard said.

"We need more than (a few states) and it will take some time," he said.   Continued...

Shareholders arrive for the Daimler annual shareholder meeting in Berlin April 1, 2015. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke