At a ceremony overnight at the Hoover Dam, about an hour outside of Las Vegas, Nevada's governor, Brian Sandoval, ceremonially installed specially marked autonomous driving number plates on the futuristic-looking Freightliner Inspiration.
Nevada is one of four states in the US, as well as Washington, DC, that licenses vehicles with autonomous driving systems.
The Freightliner Inspiration is fitted out with a Highway Pilot system that combines cameras and radars, as well as software and hardware, that allows it to stay in its lane, avoid collisions, regulate speed and steer automatically.
Used together, the Freightliner Inspiration is capable of level three autonomous driving or piloting itself under normal highway conditions.
With the Highway Pilot system enabled, the truck is capable of keeping to the legal limit, remaining in its specified lane and ensuring that it keeps a safe distance behind traffic. The driver is required to resume the controls when the truck deems that it's in a situation that can't be handled on its own.
The driver is responsible for driving the truck on and off highways, operating the vehicle on local streets and urban environments, and performing any docking manoeuvres.
At present there are two Freightliner trucks with all the Highway Pilot hardware and software loaded on-board.
Although the physical and computational specifics differ, the Inspiration's self-driving system is similar to the one used in the Audi A7 Piloted Driving Concept that, earlier this year, mostly drove itself along the highways linking Stanford, California and Las Vegas, Nevada.
As Daniel Lipinski, project leader for Audi’s automated driving projects, explained to Car Advice at CES, current technology is limited primarily to well-marked highways with a limited number of circumstances to deal with. Unpredictable urban situations are significantly more complex and still require a lot more development work.