| LAS VEGAS
LAS VEGAS May 6 Daimler has been
granted a licence 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
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.
Bernhard said no customers had yet made a commitment to
buying Daimler's self-driving trucks.
"We think once the legislation is there and once the
regulatory environment is there, we'll be approached by
customers," he said. "We're not at that point yet."
Europe too is working on establishing test routes for
autonomous trucks, although it will take time before freight
companies can cross the continent with such vehicles.
"I think ... the regulatory environment can be done in the
next five years," in Europe, Bernhard said.
One of the challenges for autonomous driving proponents is
meeting safety concerns while persuading lawmakers that accident
liability can still be established. Questions over who is in
charge of a vehicle require trucks to have a driver present,
even while it operates in self-driving mode.
Bernhard said other U.S. states -- California, Arizona,
Michigan -- had shown an interest in self-driving trucks, but
more states would need to get on board before the federal
government took up the issue.
Separately, Bernhard declined to comment on reports that
Daimler's Mercedes-Benz is preparing a bid for Nokia's
Here mapping unit in a consortium with BMW AG
, Audi AG and Baidu Inc.
(Editing by Mark Potter)