Even if autonomous trucks were to hit the highways today they would still require a driver behind the seat – at least for last mile deliveries when the truck must negotiate more complex trips to-and-from the interstates.
One company is trying to change that for the future, however.
Starsky Robotics’ goal is to retrofit trucks so they can be piloted by remote control by a CDL driver who could be miles away, reports Fleet Owner.
CEO and co-founder Stefan Seltz-Axmacher knows that most drivers don’t like him and his autonomous trucks so he replies with this argument:
“Yes, we’re these nerdy guys from San Francisco, and we’ve built a robot that looks like it does their work,” says the CEO and co-founder of Starsky Robotics. “Drivers say, ‘Oh, my gosh. Are they going to take our jobs?’ but when the conversation becomes about remote driving, and more home time, we go from being an enemy to a friend. I really hope that’s the dynamic we’re largely able to have.”
Like a military drone operator, the remote driver would have a 360-degree view of the truck and its surroundings operate the same controls including steering wheel, brakes and accelerator.
“The goal … is to have regular service, where on a consistent basis robot-driven trucks are hauling freight on the highway. Safety drivers will still be in the truck, but by the end of this year the safety driver will be out of the vehicle.”
The company is focusing its efforts on highways in Michigan, Florida and Nevada because their laws and regulations are more sympathetic to autonomous truck testing.
This week the board of the Canadian Trucking Alliance is participating in roundtables to discuss how automated technology and a future of autonomous vehicles impacts the trucking industry. Feedback from the event will assist CTA in working with government and stakeholders on implementing policies for autonomous vehicles and infrastructure in Canada.