A self-driving truck will the first autonomous vehicle to be tested on US highways according to a new announcement by Royal Truck & Equipment.
Royal Truck & Equipment is a US manufacturer of trucks and other construction vehicles, and has for several years been developing autonomous vehicle technology.
It plans to begin testing its first ever autonomous vehicle later this year on highways in Florida.
The vehicle in question is a specialized piece of road-construction equipment called a ‘Truck Mounted Attenuator’ (TMA). These vehicles function as massive, mobile shock absorbers which serve to protect road construction crews from negligent highway drivers.
Such vehicles are hit by cars on a daily basis, and save the lives of countless road construction and repair workers.
Despite the massive shock absorbers fitted to the ends of these TMA vehicles, the driver is still at considerable risk from collisions.
Royal Truck & Equipment has attempted to mitigate this risk through the use of autonomous systems that remove the role of the driver.
“Any time a driver can be removed from these vehicles in a very dangerous situation, and if the vehicle’s struck, there’s nobody inside of it to receive the damage or the injuries, that’s measuring success,” said Robert Roy, president of Royal Truck & Equipment according to The Guardian.
The company is developing the autonomous TMA in partnership with Micro Systems, a tech firm which supplies unmanned vehicles to the US military.
The vehicle itself will operate in a in a configuration called Leader/Follower to replicate real-world operation. The configuration will include a human-driven Leader vehicle, followed by the autonomous TMA truck.
GPS data from the Leader vehicle is fed back to the Follow vehicle enabling it to easily find an accurate route.
This driverless truck is one of several promising automated vehicles currently undergoing testing.
Both Volvo and Daimler have been demonstrating their own unmanned freight trucks and tractors, while tech giants like Apple and Google are pushing ahead with their own driverless car prototypes.