Do you trust this self-driving Freightliner next to your car? It’s on roads now

Daimler-owned Freightliner has become the first heavy-duty truck manufacturer to obtain the right to test autonomous vehicles in the state of Nevada. Called Inspiration, the company’s first experimental self-driving truck was introduced recently at a special event held on the Hoover Dam.

Freightliner is quick to offer reassurance that the idea of an autonomous big rig is not as terrifying as it might initially seem. The company’s Highway Pilot self-driving technology uses a series of cameras, short- and long-range radars, and sensors to scope out the road ahead and detect potential obstacles. The recorded information is transferred to a central ECU that uses it to control the truck’s gas, brakes, and power steering at highway speeds. Isn’t that reassuring?

The Inspiration also inaugurates Freightliner’s platooning technology. When Highway Pilot is turned on, two or more properly equipped trucks can use vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology to automatically reduce the gap between them to about 25 feet and lock into platoon formation. By optimizing air flow, a three-truck platoon uses 5.3 percent less diesel than when the trucks are traveling by themselves, while a five-truck platoon saves up to six percent.

The Inspiration is no ordinary big rig. More aerodynamic than any model Freightliner has ever built, it uses cameras instead of mirrors to reduce both drag and blind spots, a technology that improves overall efficiency by about 1.5 percent. Considering that trucks often return less than 10 mpg, even a small increase in gas mileage is monumentally important.

The interior is fitted with a fully-configurable digital instrument cluster worthy of a high-end German car. The floor is lined with wood, while the cockpit is equipped with two leather-upholstered air-sprung captain’s chairs and a sofa-like bench that doubles as a bed.

Freightliner stresses that the Inspiration truck isn’t designed to replace highly-trained CDL drivers. At least one person has to remain in the cab at all times, and shipping companies can’t simply load up a truck and program it to reach its destination without a driver. Additionally, Highway Pilot only works at freeway speeds, it can’t maneuver the truck out of a tight spot — at least not yet.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I.-powered cat toys, wallets, food containers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

Ford’s self-driving cars hit the streets of the nation’s capital

Ford is deploying self-driving cars in Washington, D.C. to demonstrate their capabilities to lawmakers and ordinary citizens alike. The automaker plans to launch a production autonomous car in 2021.
Cars

U.K. on-demand car service plans autonomous vehicles in London by 2021

U.K.-based Addison Lee and Oxbotica allied to serve the connected and autonomous vehicle services market. Addison Lee is an established executive car service and Oxbotica develops self-driving car systems and fleet management software.
Product Review

Audi's new A8 is so sophisticated and serene, it practically deletes potholes

The 2019 Audi A8’s outline looks promising: Level 3 autonomous driving capability, haptic-feedback infotainment screens, rear-wheel steering, Matrix LED headlights and OLED taillights, plus a predictive suspension.
Smart Home

Amazon has an even dozen new smart devices. Here’s how to order

Amazon's hardware announcement meant a whole bunch of new Amazon Alexa gadgets. From a microwave to stereo equipment, here is the complete list of devices that were announced, as well as reviews for some.
Deals

The best accounting software for your small business

Small business owners looking for accounting software have a variety of options at their disposal. And this guide will help them find the best solutions, from Quickbooks Online and Freshbooks to AccountEdge and Zoho Books.
Home Theater

Facebook might be planning a streaming box for your TV that watches you back

Facebook is reportedly working on a piece of streaming media hardware for your living room with a built-in camera for video calls, something people may not want given the company's recent controversies.
Mobile

Goodbye, Essential? Android creator’s startup cuts nearly a third of its staff

Essential has cut as much as 30 percent of its workforce, suggesting that it may be in more trouble than previously thought. The news comes a few months after the company reportedly canceled a follow-up to the Essential Phone.
Computing

Apple’s 2020 MacBooks could ditch Intel processors, arrive with ‘ARM Inside’

If you're buying a MacBook in 2020, be on the lookout for a new "ARM Inside" banner. Apple is reportedly working on transitioning away from Intel processors for its MacOS lineup in favor of new custom A-series ARM-based silicon.
Movies & TV

MoviePass saga: Parent company investigated for allegedly misleading investors

Troubled subscription-based movie service MoviePass is making headlines on a daily basis lately, and not in a good way. Here's a timeline of events for the company once described as Netflix for movie theaters.
Social Media

Some major Facebook investors want to oust Zuckerberg after scandals

After multiple scandals, Facebook investors are proposing founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg leave his position as chairman. The group says that making the position independent would remove Zuckerberg's "unchecked corporate power."
Deals

Here are the 5 best Salesforce alternatives and competitors

Salesforce has taken the customer relationship management, or CRM, world by storm. But these five alternatives, including Freshsales, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and Zoho CRM, are solid options if you're looking beyond Salesforce.
Mobile

Google may charge up to $40 per Android device for app suite following EU ruling

Google announced that it will be charging Android device manufacturers in Europe a licensing fee to use its apps and services. The announcement is part of an effort to comply with new European Commission regulations.
Smart Home

SiriusXM, Amazon team up for two Echo Dot deals with freebies

Amazon and SiriusXM partnered on two joint promotions. New SiriusXM subscribers can receive a free Amazon Echo Dot. People who already own an Echo device can sign up for new SiriusXM subscription with the first three months free.