Royal Truck & Equipment has designed a new self-driving truck under a pilot program from the Department of Transportation, and the company hopes to start using the “crash” trucks on Florida highway construction sites by the end of the year. The new trucks were designed to protect highway workers on construction sites and prevent motorists from crashing into trucks.
Self-driving truck made for safer construction zones
The autonomous trucks are fitted with warning signs that alert drivers about the presence of construction works. The vehicle is controlled by GPS Waypoint navigation, leader/follower technology, and a remote control. The GPS Waypoint is a physical location or landmark stored in the GPS system which is often used for later reference.
In efforts to prevent motorists from driving into construction trucks, the rigs are built with special crash barriers called impact attenuators. These barriers work by absorbing the impact and are credited with saving lives of the drivers and construction workers. The attenuators are actually dangerous for drivers in accidents, and that is the primary reason the trucks were designed with self-driving technologies.
Royal Truck & Equipment’s president Robert Roy said, “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.”
Self-driving technologies for the future
Earlier this year, German automaker Daimler created the first self-driving truck to legally operate in the United States. The truck was named the “Freightliner Inspiration Truck,” and it features a pilot system complete with cameras, radars and sensors. Unlike the newer truck from Royal Truck & Equpiment, this vehicle needs a driver behind the wheel.
Crash trucks have been used on the road for over 30 years, and according to a recent study from the Journal of the Transportation Research Board, they cut work-related fatalities and injuries by nearly half. The study’s author, Gerald Ullman (from Texas A&M Transportation Institute), also believes connected and self-driving cars are the future. The new technology could be one of the first ways it becomes commercialized.