The first self-driving semi-trailer truck began its first trip on a major European highway last week.
The German automobile company Daimler made the vehicle, which is named Actros. It is perhaps the first mass-produced truck whose driver will only be required to watch the vehicle's movements. The driver will have duties similar to those of an airline pilot while the plane flies in autopilot mode.
The new 430-horsepower truck began its test drive last Friday from the German city of Stuttgart. The truck was loaded with 40 tons of cargo.
Wolfgang Bernhard, the head of Daimler's trucks and buses division, drove the Actros. Once on the road, he let the truck take control of steering, so that it could move around other vehicles.
The Actros reached a speed of 80 kilometers an hour while driving down the busy road. The vehicle was followed by a car equipped with cameras. Also following was a police car, in case of an emergency.
Wolfgang Bernhard says the driver of the Actros must follow strict rules.
"I'm not allowed to turn around. I'm not allowed to turn to the side because I have to continue to monitor the traffic situation," Mr. Bernhard says. "But I can take my hands off the wheel ... the steering is smooth and the vehicle remains on track."
Radar, a number of video cameras and sensing devices continually watch other vehicles and road conditions. The truck will ask the driver to take control of the vehicle in dangerous situations. If the driver does not, the truck will slow to a stop by itself.
Daimler says its trucks will help drivers on long road trips and in stop-and-go traffic conditions. The company hopes governments will pass necessary laws to permit the use of its self-driving trucks by 2020.
I'm Jonathan Evans.
VOA's George Putic reported this story from Washington. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
autopilot - n. a system used to control the movement of a vehicle without direct control by a human operator
cargo - n. something that is carred from one place to another by boat, airplane, etc.
steering - adj. controlling the direction of something
strict - adj. strong or exacting
monitor - v. to watch or inspect something for a reason
track - n. a path made by people