Robert Wright:

Daimler’s Freightliner Inspiration in Las Vegas: the first autonomous truck licensed to operate on public streets

When the Freightliner Inspiration truck leaves its parking place near the Las Vegas Speedway, Christian Urban, the driver, starts off as on any other trip, moving the steering wheel and operating the pedals.

But when the vast truck is on the public road, a message on the dashboard tells Mr Urban that a program called “Highway Pilot” is ready to take over. After pushing a button on the steering wheel, the truck steers, accelerates and brakes without the intervention of Mr Urban, an engineer at Freightliner’s headquarters.

Germany’s Daimler, Freightliner’s parent, has hailed the Inspiration — which was granted permission on Tuesday to operate on Nevada’s roads — as the first autonomous truck licensed to operate on public streets.

But while the state’s decision is significant, the step looks more evolutionary than revolutionary. Daimler portrays the Inspiration as the next step from vehicles that warn drivers when they are leaving their lane and control braking if too close to the vehicle in front.