I rode a semi-autonomous truck at CES 2019

I rode a semi-autonomous truck at CES 2019


(sensor beeping) (driver reacting) (horn honking) – We hear a lot about
self-driving technology, pretty much all the time these days, especially at shows like CES. But one place where that
technology might actually make a pretty big impact sooner
than later, is in trucking. Trucks travel millions of miles every year and carry most of our consumer goods, pretty much everything
you have in your home. But they can be dangerous
to drive and they can be a risk to other people on the road. So, getting a little bit of
that self-driving technology into a truck like this could
actually go a really long way. (techno music) Almost 4 years ago,
Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, made a
pretty a pretty big claim. They said they were working
on a self-driving big rig, and they pulled out all the
stops for the big reveal. They brought the truck out
on top of the Hoover Dam, and then they brought us all here to the Las Vegas Motor
Speedway to give us all rides in the truck and let us
see what it would be like to be inside a self-driving big rig. Those trucks were just prototypes,
but they were something of a break-through at the time. They were the first vehicles to get special autonomous-vehicle license plates from the state of Nevada, which has become a pretty big hotbed for
testing self-driving cars. This week at CES, we’re
starting to see that dream from 2015 turn into, kind of, a reality. Daimler’s showing off the
final production version of those prototype-trucks,
and it’s announcing a whole bunch of news
around this program as well. It’s committing 500 million
euros to the program, hiring hundreds of
workers, and it’s promising that these trucks will go into
manufacturing this summer, and be on the road later this year. Now to get a full understanding
of what this new technology was really like and how
different it is, Daimler actually let me drive one of the
Cascadia trucks that doesn’t have any of this technology in it. – Maybe with your thumb, yeah. There you go. And now, you’re ready to go. – [Sean] Alright. I found the one person at CES
who let me drive something this year, and it happens to
be a gigantic truck (laughs). So, this big boy is the Daimler
Cascadia, the newest version of Daimler’s, essentially,
most popular truck. And we’re out here at CES this
year to see what Daimler’s doing with self-driving
technology in these trucks. This is not the version that
has that tech inside of it, but this is, sort of, the
latest and greatest before we get into the more advanced
Cascadia that Daimler’s showing off this week. And I’ve never driven a
truck like this before and, I don’t know, I got
the hang of it pretty quick. But I’m definately
really interested to see how much different it feels
being inside one of these things when you add all of these
self-driving sensors. There are thousands of
fatal crashes every year involving big rigs on U.S.
roads, and pretty much all of them have something
to do with human error. So, getting any kind of
self-driving trucks into the trucks to help out the driver, is always gonna be a pretty big deal. More than that, driving a
truck is just a grueling job. You’re spending 10, 12
hours on the road at a time and doing that day after
day after day, driving along what can be really monotonous highways. Drivers get easily distracted,
so putting something in the truck that can
help out a driver and make that experience, not only
easier on them, but safer for everyone around them, is
also a really big step forward. One of the most interesting things about what Daimler’s done here
is that it’s accomplishing all of this with just a
little bit of technology. There’s two radar sensors
and one camera, and that’s what’s making this whole thing possible. That’s a far cry from
something like Tesla, which has cameras, and
radars, and ultrasonics all around the car. Some of the specific
things this truck can do using that technology is it
will alert the driver if there’s a pedestrian, or a bicyclist,
or somebody along side the right side of the truck. – [Driver] My following distance is set for about 3.6 seconds, so
it’s gonna wait for him to get about 3.6 seconds ahead
of us and then it’s gonna keep that pace as much as we
possibly can with that car. And now I don’t have hands
on the steering wheel, it’s basically steering. After about 15 to 20 seconds,
I get the caution popup that says, “Put your
hands back on the wheel.” If I don’t do it, it’s going to escalate into a red guard here in a
minute, and I’m gonna start (sensor beeping)
to get an audible chime. It’s gonna get more and more annoying (sensor beeping)
for about 60 seconds. – [Sean] And what would reset
that, just giving a little bit of a tug to the wheel?
– [Driver] Yeah, If I just give a little bit
of torque on the steering. – If you follow the advancements
that have been happening in self-driving technology
in the automotive space, a lot of this might now sound
very new to you, but the fact that they’re coming to
trucks is pretty big deal. These trucks are out on the
road clocking million of miles, and one of the biggest problems
is making sure that a driver whose doing a really long
shift is staying aware, able to drive safely, and
able to keep the people around themselves safe as well. And so, this truck has
been outfitted with a bunch of different features that will
make sure that that happens. One thing that’s really interesting about what Daimler unveiled today,
is that it’s really not all that far off from what we
saw almost four years ago. The technology is just
a slight iteration and a slight refinement over
those prototype-trucks. And that actually matches
what we’re starting to see in the industry at large. We’ve all these wild promises
about self-driving cars over the last couple years,
especially here at CES. And none of that has
really come to fruition. There was, sort of, an
over-promising happening for awhile and now everybody’s kind of
coming back down to reality. And Daimler is right
there with everybody else. They spent a lot of today talking about how they’re gonna take
a more measured path going forward with this stuff. And while it’s nice to
think about a future where these trucks might be
able to drive themselves and completely reduce
crashes, today was all about keeping drivers in the
truck, and also using that technology to help
those drivers out as opposed to just replacing them completely. That doesn’t mean that that won’t be where this technology ends up
five, 10, 20, or 30 years down the road, but it gives
us a better picture of what the transition will look
like, and how the world will actually change as
this technology matures in the coming years. Thanks everybody for watching. For more self-driving
trucks, self-driving cars, and all the other crazy
technology we’re seeing here this week at CES 2019,
got to theverge.com. And make sure you go
to YouTube.com/theverge and click subscribe. Thanks for watching.