We talk a lot about his job. It's not fun. He works long hours, a lot of it is mundane driving, and he sits idle a lot of the time.
I think he would be the first to agree that automation of his job is inevitable and likely necessary, given the dangers of truck driving. Hurling a multi-ton vehicle to and fro is a dangerous task at the best of times.
But therein lies the rub. We are just now reaching the point where we as a society are getting comfortable with automated cars. I think people will be less comfortable with the idea that the truck next to them has no human in it, and could experience some kind of glitch with catastrophic consequences. HN readers will understand that these cars are still a ways away, since the last 10% of the work required for true automation will take a lot longer to develop.
Trucks are way more complicated to drive. Once they're up to cruising speed, they're easy. But it's everything leading up to that point which is hard. Dealing with gear changes, airbrakes, load shifting, other vehicles that will inevitably cut you off, and much more.
And then when you get to your destination, manoeuvring a 50' trailer is no easy task, even for a trained driver like my dad.
It will happen, and it should happen. But it won't be easy, nor soon. Of course, I'd be happy to be wrong, and I'm sure my dad would be too.
The mechanical aspects of controlling a large truck and accounting for the variables is probably the easiest part of the problem.
Things involving humans (vehicles cutting you off, pedestrians, etc.) are part of the general class of problems that I'm assuming all automated vehicles are working on and are much harder.
A trucker is driving a 40 ton truck at 65mph. A passenger car with a family of four cuts in front of it, and the distance is closing fast.
A passenger car takes roughly 315 feet to come to a complete stop. A fully loaded truck takes 525 feet. The trucker now has to make a decision.
A) Do I slam on the brakes and keep going straight, and completely obliterate the car in front of me and the family inside it?
B) Do I cut off to the side, running over the rail, flipping the truck, killing myself, and possibly any other vehicles or pedestrians around, behind, or coming in the opposite direction of me?
The robot trucker could of course decide on B), but there are unknown variables about the extent of the resulting damage. This risk increases with merging between lanes or on/off ramps both by passenger vehicles, the truck itself, and motorcycles.
A dedicated lane would make this fantastically safer, but who will pay for it?
How does this change if truck design and "per-axel" fee incentives were rationalized to instead maximize the number of axles? Doubling the number of axles reduces road damage by 94%. Currently semi trucks account for 6% of vehicle miles driven and 99% of all traffic damage to roads.
But would this measure also improve braking distance and safety?
 http://www.nytimes.com/1989/07/26/business/economic-scene-be... (erroneously states that damage scales as the cube of axle weight; it scales as the fourth power or even the sixth(!) power on weak roads)
Race cars are designed to stop faster than passenger cars. Their brakes are huge, they're designed with exotic components to transfer heat to air faster, designed to take higher heat for longer, the cars are designed to flow air over the brakes, and they cost much more and don't last as long, and have advanced computerized systems to optimize brake utilization. They also have pretty big tires (usually for power transfer, not braking). Their tires are also grippier on a given surface at a higher tire temperature, so they cost more and don't last as long, and work best on dry flat surfaces. They strip all the weight out of the car to decrease the amount of force working against the tires and brakes. Even the suspension and shell is designed to increase tire, and thus brake, traction. They stop really goddamn fast - 93 feet for a Ferrari F430 Scuderia, from 60mph.
Trucks are designed to carry 40 tons up and down hills, survive tire blow-outs, brake system failures, and more miles than 1000 F430s will ever see, on all kinds of road surfaces and temperatures. It is possible to improve the brake time, but it would probably cost so much you might as well ship your produce in a Ferrari. Halve the weight they carry to reduce braking distance and now we have to have twice the trucks to carry the same loads, but you still have a vehicle 10x heavier than other vehicles with dynamics that simply can't move around like the lighter ones. More accidents would be guaranteed.
A lot of that isn't to brake faster but to keep the brakes from overheating from constant high use during a race that can last a couple hours or more. For normal emergency use you can drop a lot of that because they only need to be used extremely hard rarely and they'll have time to cool.
The bottom line is: a single panic stop on the highway isn't limited by your brakes on a passenger car, it's limited by your tires. The more friction your tires have with the road, the faster you'll slow down.
So yes, if you want a 40 ton truck to stop faster, it's completely doable: just increase the amount of rubber in contact with the road. Adding more wheels will do that quickly. However, more tires means more rolling friction which means less fuel economy and fuel economy is critically important to long-haul trucking. Also, adding more axles causes maneuverability problems in the city. Notice that on standard trailers, the rear axle set can be moved forward and back. They set them in the rearward position for long hauls, and in the forward position for shorter hauls.
Also, drivers as I understand it aren't paid monthly salaries, they're paid by the mile.
However, stopping distance in real-world scenarios is wayyyy farther than in practice runs, because even a second faster braking by the driver can save a hundred feet. So robotic braking (that we have today in passenger cars) could improve the distance a lot. But...
Trucks are still 10-20x heavier than passenger cars, and there are practical upper bounds to the size of their brakes and the g's they can pull. If a passenger car normally stops in 388 feet at 65mph (not uncommon) and it would stop at 196 feet at 45mph, a truck at 45mph would stop in 265 feet. So yes, the truck could in theory stop faster than the passenger car.
But passenger cars don't just slam on their brakes in front of trucks (often). They also just drift right the heck into the truck. Perhaps mechanisms could be developed to safely merge away, and they'll probably be developed in passenger cars first. But there's no denying that a dedicated roadway would not only save repair costs for passenger-vehicle-only roads, it would remove the risk of colliding with passenger vehicles no matter whose fault it was.
As I've said before about smaller autonomous vehicles, they'll be programmed to always choose the option which is most defensible in court. I will be amazed if we ever see an autonomous vehicle on public roads which does something more complicated than "come to a complete halt as fast as possible while steering for the clearest area of asphalt."
(I agree but humans are dumb and companies have to cover their asses.)
Soon, people learn that they are responsible for acting, well, responsibly.
But how common is your scenario ?
I consider this a more critical failure :
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration suspects that as many as 28% of commercial truck drivers have sleep apnea.
The Sleep Medicine Division surmised that nearly a 250,000, persons fall asleep while driving each day of the year.
Nearly half of semi-truck drivers have admitted to actually ‘drifting off’ while driving a long-haul route.
Anecdotally, the 3 truckers i've known have complained about it. I now drive very carefully around trucks.
Swerving at the last minute is a non-option because it means turning sharply, which jackknifes the truck. Turning while braking is worse because turning while either braking or accelerating compromises steering. You can try to brake until the last moment and then take off the brakes and try to turn, but again possible jackknife, the wheels could have locked up to the brakes, and now that you're traveling slower you will actually turn slower, so it's harder to cut the wheel and go around. All of this within a few seconds.
You have to either try to slow down and blow the horn, or get out of the way and blow the horn. Some people are lucky and either swerve away from the truck at the last moment, or their car only gets marginally crunched.
One hacker friend of mine's car actually got thrown nearly into the opposite lane of traffic on the highway with the same scenario. Recovery took a while. I think he's still got pain and limited mobility.
Not as often as truckers having incidents through tiredness etc. I'd warrant.
> You can try to brake ....
We're talking about "The computer ...."
Jam mobile connectivity, run the truck off the road by herding it with other vehicles, then break in and run-away with the goods or the entire trailer for that matter.
Do you take the guard hostage? Do you kill them? Will they themselves be armed? Will they put up a fight, training or no training? If you try aggressively to bring their vehicle to a halt, will they concede immediately (as an autonomous vehicle likely would), or will they try ramming your vehicle?
A human guard is an unknown quantity, and any crimes you commit against their person are in a different league to the theft of the cargo.
I think you mean that truckers FEEL like they deal with that dilemma all the time. If they ACTUALLY dealt with an A or B dilemma, they would routinely end up in situation A or B: running over a passenger car or flipping the truck. It happens SOMETIMES, but infrequently.
In reality the situations where other drivers do something stupid are probably much better handled by the self-driving truck, which doesn't panic, doesn't feel a fight-or-flight response, doesn't overstate the gravity of the situation... doesn't do anything except assess what to do next without emotion.
I suspect it will still be years before much of trucking is automated. Why? It's not just the take crap from point A to point B, it's also being responsible for making sure what was ordered is actually loaded. It will be years before, say, the laborers at Earth Bound Farms south of Salinas (supplies large quantities of "organic" produce all up and down the west coast) automates their work staff or actually has their schedules down tight.
Trucking and hauling is full of inefficiencies, and those that suffer the most are the drivers. A pickup/dropoff that takes too long because the people at the origin/destination are lazy/slow/don't care/behind has a ripple effect.
And, one could argue "but automated trucks, what schedule?", there will still need to be a human present, regardless. I suspect said human will be restrained by rules similar to what drivers experience now.
Why on earth did you pick them out so incredibly specifically and put scare quotes around organic? Doesn't seem relevant.
But the long-haul interstate runs? I see this happening faster than any automated passenger cars, and once it starts it's going to rapidly take over that industry. Probably starts with convoys with a couple human tenders until the tech is proven.
The more mass you have, the longer your braking distance and the more sluggish the reactions. While the problem is the same, and the mechanical differences easily modelled, light vehicles get away with lower accuracy and higher latencies, because they don't need to plan ahead so far.
If human truck drivers can do it, then a computer truck with a 360 model of the environment around it can do it more efficiently right.
I don't understand the problem here really. Computers are way better at logical computation than humans and that's all we require here.
I'm pretty sure the car will be able to identify and plastic bag ... not to mention a simple cargo manifest that would apply parameters about how the cargo is to be dealt with.
But these are all new technologies. Our visual recognition libraries are nowhere near ideal. I said this elsewhere but I will say it here too - our best of the best software can't tell a zebra and a sofa in a zebra print apart. I'm pretty sure that all that LIDAR is seeing is a spherical object on the road, it has no idea what it is.
The same with the cargo manifest - it sounds simple, but no one has a system like this. It would need to be made and implemented, and it takes time and effort - I'm not saying that it's impossible, far from it, but it's one more obstacle to overcome to make this possible.
Really? I find this surprising. Do you have any links or sources? I'd like to learn more.
The article mentions 45mph as the most efficient speed for a truck. I can imagine the regulators demanding a pretty low speed for automated trucks.
"the car was the encroaching vehicle in 89% of headon
crashes, 88% of the opposite-direction sideswipes, 80% of the rear-end crashes, and 72% of the same-direction sideswipes."
The definitive thing you would want, I assume, is "at-fault accidents per xxx miles driven" for all accidents, segmented by vehicle type.
I wonder if there will be a more specialised role for human drivers here akin to pilots in ports. Companies at the scale able to invest in the tech might have the trucks arrive at a queue near regional hubs and have wet-ware do the 10 minutes of fiddly driving after clearing off the Smart car debris.
It's not unlike many college kids taking a job as a security guard and "watching monitors" while doing their homework, etc. (Another thing that I considered, but never actually did.)
Of course, there's a lot more training for truck driving, but I don't see that as a major barrier, given the benefits of extra pay and travel.
1) Automated gears and obstacle detection - we already have this.
2) Have the truck stay in one lane and maintain distance - We're close. This means humans stay in truck and solve the hard problems when encountered. (Kind of like pilots)
3) Automated port to port driving without humans.
4) Destination to destination driving without humans.
We already fly military aircraft remotely, I don't see why a truck that's packed with cameras and sensors can't be driven safely by a human in an office somewhere.
In the states, many distribution centers are located next to major transportation arteries, whether rail or interstate highway. In addition, many of the places they ship to are also located on major arteries. It wouldn't be a huge stretch to have automated trucks you load on one end, they drive to the other (using 98% highway driving), then park in a waiting area until a human finishes the job by parking them.
The interesting edge cases here would be accidents, construction, and detours. Whatever you deploy should be able to handle those without human intervention. Otherwise we could end up with every accident site also having 100 automated trucks at a dead stop waiting on drivers to show up. That'd be ugly.
Here is the big thing - the driverless truck has to operate in a uncontrolled environment that can result in human death. Who is the responsible party? The trucking company? The software developer?
Additionally we are talking situations where a computer can't have any reaction interruptions for hours and hours. No reboots. No garbage collection pauses. No panics.
Can this be done? Maybe. But at what cost? It might be that the best role for the computer is helping a truck driver be safer -- not to replace the truck driver.
You mean, just like existing ones? It's not like we're still driving purely mechanical cars. Current production vehicles already have plenty of software managing stuff.
You do have a point on liability, and I don't have an answer better than a centralised pool of money that everyone pays in or out of.
Some times we get so fascinated by technology, that we forget that the technology has to fit within human society.
Remember the whole concept of product/market fit - if the market rejects the product: it doesn't matter how "cool" the technology is.
Nope. Short of gross negligence in design, that seldom happens in any engineering field.
How many people were criminally charged in the Challenger disaster? None.
Additionally, going up on a rocket is a fundamentally risking proposition done by adults.
Having a driverless vehicle that glitches, applies power instead of brakes, and kills a bunch of pretty young girls.... well that makes the 5 oclock news and 11 oclock for many, many days.
People get charged with crimes.
You're illustrating my point for me quite nicely. Frankly, I can't think of a criminal conviction, even at the corporate level, for design flaws in the auto industry without going all the way back to the Ford Pinto.
Last mile driving may not look anything like truck driving.
Of course if you need to provide all of that to allow for someone to drive it manually around town a lot of those benefits are gone. Who knows, there will probably be some transitional period where all automated trucks are still equipped for manual control but I doubt it'll stay that way for long.
Although thinking about it, the guard could travel in a separate vehicle, and could be responsible for overseeing an entire convoy of trucks at one time.
There’s no reason to build a cab into the truck that is only used for the last mile. Telepresence will do just fine.
Likewise, you may be monitoring city traffic and choosing alternate routes. But you won’t be driving with one foot on the brake pedal and your hands on the steering wheel.
Any driverless technology that requires a constant wireless internet connection is a non-starter.
You are there to route it around traffic jams, talk to the foreman on site, and choose the loading bay.
Even if you had a reliable high-bandwidth/low-latency connection, the truck will be better than you are at handling things that requires instant response. You are there to make decisions.
Example: you have refrigerated items (let's say a shipment of fresh fruit) that has to be maintained at a constant temperature and you want it delivered to your customer on Thursday when you ship Sunday night.
Truck: not a problem, and you can easily get updates all the time from dispatch (or if there is a GPS unit on the truck, immediately).
Railroad: maybe they will get it there, maybe they won't.
If the railroad puts a refrigerator unit on your boxcar and it breaks down, too bad - they won't reimburse you. A trucking company will.
Sounds like both of those are more to do with shit rail companies than inherent downsides of rail (or upsides of trucking)?
If the thing you insure against actually happens, premiums go up to the point of it being uneconomic.
> Now retired after more than 30 years in the produce business, Wolf noted that farmers began growing iceberg lettuce in the region just prior to the 1930s. The demand for the hearty lettuce variety soon took off through the use of refrigerated rail cars.
And yet the highways are full of semi trailers...
In the US, especially outside of the northeast, most interstate highways are not tolled, so users of the road don't pay any more for its maintenance than non-users do. But someone is still paying for it. Taxpayers who don't use the roads are effectively subsidizing those who do.
By contrast, railways usually own their rails and are obliged to maintain them themselves, and thus have to fold those costs into the price.
This is really unfair.
RoLa (Rollende Landstraße) as we call this in Germany, or just transporting the flatbed carriages, requires a SHITLOAD of manual work, unlike containers where you don't even need people on the locos in the yard anymore.
Not to mention that long-haul-via-rail is only viable in the US... in Europe, it virtually doesn't exist anymore. It just isn't profitable due to various external conditions:
1) train track pricing is prohibitively expensive
2) freight trains don't get priority over passenger trains - quite the contrary. If you have any time-sensitive stuff, better transport it via road instead.
3) rail tracks are massively overbooked. One single delay and the entire system grinds to a screeching halt.
4) there is no such thing as cross-Europe locomotives/conductors. There might be multi-system-capable locos, but there is not a single loco on the market able to serve the entire fragmented European railroad technology.
There may be "just" 15/25 kV AC + 1k5/3kV DC, but every country needs their own roof collectors because they're NOT compatible (some countries don't even have roof collectors, but 3rd rails or sideway rails for the low-voltage DC stuff, and the DC stuff usually doesn't pack a lot of power so you can't really use them for any heavy load), but the real tech problem is the load of bollocks called signalling/security system, every country has their own, including Germany alone with FOUR popular systems (classic form signals, light-based signals, LZB/PZB and ETCS, in addition to various customizations in Eastern Germany and the S-Bahn tracks).
Not to mention the conductors which have to know all the signalling systems AND all the languages (compared to aviation where English is the standard worldwide), and they need to be expensively re-certified...
Yeah, ETCS, I hear you, but ETCS is a joke that would require literally hundreds of billions to retrofit across the major transit routes in Europe, but that won't happen - we Europeans haven't even managed to get our freight carriages to silent brakes yet!
5) There are still restrictions like maximum train lengths and the plain fact that European freight carriages only carry a pneumatic line for the brakes, but no data lines for controlling middle/back locos - so there's no technical way of extending train lengths because there's simply no loco combo capable of pulling >700m length heavy freight carriages with 3 locos on the front and no way to control a pushing loco in the back of the train. Simple physics, the good old screw coupling just can't support more load. There are alternatives (C-AKv coupling, it's high load AND compatible with the old coupling) but once again a retrofit would cost billions (see #4)...
Trains might be more efficient from an environmental and human-resources POV, but they're fucked up on any economic scale - and politicians all over Europe don't give a single fuck, instead they are all letting their rail systems rot to pieces and squeeze every tiny penny from the rail companies to fix up their even more rotten state budgets!
Isn't using containers much more efficient anyway, instead of moving the whole truck?
The core problem is that freight companies in Europe standardized on the Euro Pool Palette (EPAL) but ISO containers worldwide use the non-metric US measurement system - thus leading to waste of space and potential safety issues (sliding palettes due to slack space on the floor).
Trucks, however, are fitted to the metric system and can safely transport EPALs, so you've got next to no alternative.
Interestingly in the northwestern u.s. (and I suspect throughout the western u.s.) the main rail corridors prioritize freight.
Discovered this while, as a regular Seattle - Portland traveler, I found myself stationary while lumber rolled by. Amtrak's leases are subordinate to the freight lines.
Freight trains get priority here and it still doesn't make sense to ship by train. Rail is pretty limited by the huge size of our country, and they need to be able to ship to tiny random stores all over the place. It makes more sense to send one truck that can stop anywhere there's a road than send it out via train and then transfer to a local truck, which might be sitting unused the rest of the time.
Quite the contrary, the US is better suited for rail than the rest of the world, at least for cross-country moving of goods (one single area of law, no customs crap to deal with, the only thing I'm not sure is signalling and interoperability of locomotives on rail systems in different states).
Trains are perfect for inter-city travel, the first/last mile should be handled with trucks unless the facility is so large that it can source or sink a huge number of trains (e.g. automobile, steel factories, coal mines, fossil power plants).
Trains have several single points of failure for a larger load. When there is a problem, all of the load is affected, it takes longer to repair, and problems with both the rails and the trains happen regularly. And trains have more complex maneuvering than trucks; switching lines is a non-trivial time-consuming matter and operators have a tough job just on the existing lines.
The fact remains we don't have enough rail to service most of the country, and nobody is paying for new rail, not to mention the issue of fitting more track on the existing land and bridges used for rail. Demand has been increasing steadily on rail, and only so much traffic can possibly run on the rails - which are shared with passenger trains, btw. To switch to trains you'd be adding 230% more traffic to the rails.
If you're a responsible freight truck company, you want to avoid this situation at all costs. There's always cargo that wants to be shipped - the only scarce resources are drivers and tractor units, and some companies even let multiple drivers share the tractors to maximize the usage of their tractors (that really depends on the company though, there are also companies where every driver "owns" his tractor).
> The fact remains we don't have enough rail to service most of the country, and nobody is paying for new rail
Yes, indeed. The beginnings of the stock markets actually were railroad construction companies, but these days the financial markets only care about the next big unicorn and not about creating something with real long term value, which a train track certainly is given that, once the track is laid, the land belongs to the company and the only major investments required are 50-year overhauls and regular maintenance. It's a shame.
We still need to create on- and off-ramps so human drivers can bring trucks to the freeways where highway autopilot can take over.
I can also see traffic lanes being created to support commerce, special easement areas for trucks at stops that don't have to support showers/food/bathrooms etc... reducing overall cost.
All of this comes at cost to human workers - but it's inevitable.
I disagree. Specifically, you are assuming that the human workers will quietly accept their fate.
History is full of jobs that have been automated away, and few of those historical examples offered a more obvious and large payoff.
With railroads, there is not an economic incentive for automation.
One commentator suggested that driverless trucks would have to be separated from human drivers. Railroads have this thing called "tracks"
Another suggested the wonderful advantage of a driverless truck not getting into accidents. Railroads have an excellent safety record.
Driverless trucks as a way to reduce the need to spend money on humans. Railroads need only 2 humans for 100+ unit train that is equivalent to 300 or so trucks. ( 1 railcar = 3 truckloads https://www.chrobinson.com/en/us/Logistics/Intermodal-Rail/C... )
Trains are 10x more ( http://grist.org/article/freight-trains-19th-century-technol... ) more energy efficient than trucks.
What is the economic model to use driverless trucks? Sure the trucking industry will push for this. But the railroad industry has so many natural advantages.
The same as for trucks with drivers (only cheaper) and those already control much of the transportation business.
Road goes to more places than train tracks.
You dont really need more than that...
That's an interesting point. I wonder if self-driving trucks will tend to be smaller, because there's less incentive to amortize the wages of the driver by making his/her truck as large as possible.
The judgement for when to stop with an unsafe load and wayfinding at the last 100 yards of a route are indeed tasks that I'd prefer to leave to a human for the time being. Maybe we'll have 'dock pilots' like we do for large cargo ships?
As a commercially-rated pilot I would be shocked, too - since few airport runways are certified for Cat III landings, and that's only under restricted wind speeds.
And even after autoland in fog, a pilot still taxis up to the gate.
They may have humans do all the manoeuvring within the distribution hubs long after they've automated all of the street driving.
Shifting and braking, though, seem to me like the kind of thing that automata should be good at. And I suppose that, once most of the cars on the road are autonomous, the streets will be much more truck-friendly.
I doubt a "hub driver" will earn a 6-figure salary, but manoeuvring a semi truck two or three trailers is definitely a skilled job that many (most?) people are not capable of learning to do well.
An Australian friend of mine told me that the trucks that carry load from Australian mining fields are almost fully automated, and have been for a while now. So perhaps it's not that complicated?
"We still need to create on- and off-ramps so human drivers can bring trucks to the freeways where highway autopilot can take over."
A comment below talked about harbour pilots. That seems like a great idea.
Unless the truck somehow acknowledges adjacent vehicles in a comforting way. I don't know what that would look like, but it would probably be coupled with advertising and data collection (no law against filming all the cars around you and what they are doing).
My first airplane journey was fascinating. As some one who doesn't know how to drive a car, and is struggling trying to learn it, I was spell bound when I watched the pilot taxi the huge airplane to the terminal.
Well airplanes aren't even regular shaped and size of the human taxi'ing the plane to the plane is very small. Yet the pilot could precision park to the terminal.
The fact is no matter how hard it seems, if you've been doing it day in and out, it looks like just another job at the end.
A fully loaded truck traveling 55mph (on some roads they are allowed 65 or even 75) can weigh 80,000 lbs or more (in Canada under certain circumstances, 139,500 lbs).
That is a tremendous amount of force that must be handled properly 100% of the time, through rain, hail, sleet, snow - and with smaller cars weaving in and out of traffic all around them.
What about the roads themselves? I'm curious how an autonomous truck will handle a snow-covered highway, fog, potholes, and tight corners caused by narrow roads, bad parking, snow banks, etc. This is a way of life where I live (Boston area).
The article about the Russian driverless van (cited by @ommunist) talks with the experts, who are by no means 100% convinced this is "right around the corner": (1)
Industry players are aware that just one serious accident on the roads involving a driverless car could set back their development by decades.
“Everyone has come to understand that the technology is 90 percent ready, but even when it’s 99.99 percent ready, it still won’t be launched,” says Gol, whose product is currently being tested in various scenarios and weather conditions.
“Until we can teach [artificial] intelligence to learn the nuances of things that can occur unexpectedly on the roads … what will happen if transparent glass is being carried across the road, what if there’s a paper bag that the system perceives as a rock,” the system isn’t ready, he said.
“We need a mathematical revolution to overcome that 0.01 percent,” says Gol. “We all understand perfectly that to have just one accident involving autonomous transport will have a huge fallout in society – the technology could be closed down completely for another 50 years. It’s a huge responsibility,” he added.
It won't; at least, it won't need to handle narrow roads, bad parking, snow banks, etc.
The autonomous truck need not drive the whole route that a human driver does now. Drive down the Ohio Turnpike and you will see numerous parking lots with UPS trailers parked in them, right alongside the highway. All you need is an autonomous truck to drive the trailer down the turnpike. Humans can drop it off at the turnpike and pick it up. It could deal with typical weather events, or just look at the weather forecast and stay parked if the weather looks like it will be bad.
The highways are cleared shoulder to shoulder a day or two after most snows so the autonomous trucks wouldn't lose too much yearly time due to bad weather. You could keep humans around to drive the more urgent shipments.
Exactly. They'll be more like trains than trucks as we know them; they'll simply have more tracks available.
Would that be significant safer and more efficient to make it worthwhile?
If you limit autonomous driving to the main freight routes on the highway, I can see self driving vehicles happening a lot sooner than I previously expected. Like 20 years sooner.
I'm even imagining 24 hour drivers, who let the truck drive autonomously at night on quiet roads at low speeds while they sleep and live in the truck. A bit like lonely spaceship pilots from science fiction.
this is probably also much easier to sell to existing industry and government. you're not eliminating drivers at all, but instead making their jobs easier and profits higher. having zero autonomous trucks on the road during the day is also a PR positive. no road tripping families put at risk, etc.
Highways are the next obvious use. I could see automated trucks driving down the transcanadian highway for example or similar long interstate stretch.
I gotta say though, if we're going that way, why not go intermodal, add a RR right of way through the interstate with a double-track, operate automated freight trains and automated transshipment terminals. Just load the trailer onto the train and go. I know rail isn't sexy but it'd make sense in terms of carbon footprint (trains could be multimode diesel-electric/electric depending on corridor.) And most of that rail net could be fully automated.
The beauty of this expensive approach is that it would not only obviate waiting for a train going in the right direction and the requirement for mode switching terminals (those are just the fair weather sailing benefits), but also eliminate the inherent fragility of highly interdependent railroad schedules. Where conventional rail quickly breaks down completely, road can gracefully degrade towards a massive traffic jam slowly grinding forward on some dirt road fallback route.
It is 100% certain without any doubt whatsoever that this is how it will start. It will start with dedicated interstate roads (or lanes) just for driverless trucks, and then cars.
After some time all freeways will be 100% driverless. I don't anticipate mixed use (driverless + drivers) ever happening.
Local roads (i.e. uncontrolled access) is many many decades away.
but it already has?!
I mean there are already self driving cars being tested on public roads. Technically not driverless, but almost.
Say you are on a one-way road, and at the bottom of it an ambulance is blocking the road - so you need to back all the way out of the road (or u-turn).
No driverless car today can handle such a situation. There are many more real-world examples. The cars today are just demos, not usable products.
The steps go like this:
Driverless car in a dedicated lane. That will be first since it's much easier to build than local driving or mixed long distance. It also covers the most important need (i.e. much less economic reason to make one for local use).
Lots more people see how great that is, so more cars (and trucks) will be rapidly added. That lane will reach capacity, so more lanes will be added.
Within 5 to 10 years driverless long distance will be the norm, and long distance driver cars will be rare. (All the cars will be have mixed modes, with the driver taking over for local streets.)
Every new car will advertise that it includes diverless mode as a feature.
All this will happen so fast there won't be time to perfect a mixed use car.
By the time they do perfect a local driverless car virtually all cars on the market will already have long-distance driverless mode. And the ones that don't will probably get retrofit kits.
So at no point will mixed long distance ever be a thing - by the time the technology is able to do that, there won't be any cars that need it.
You're exhibiting the AI effect . Could you program the software that makes vehicles drive around "boring" roads? Of course it's advanced.
> I can see self driving vehicles happening a lot sooner than I previously expected. Like 20 years sooner.
Self driving vehicles are already a thing. They're driving around the bay are all the time . They'll be "happening" in the delivery market much sooner than 20 years, like in the next 5. The state of California has already started the regulatory process .
At first I had no idea what you're referring to, but then I realised the confused stemmed from my typo. I meant to ask whether it was a significant advancement, not an advanced net/AI.
I know self driving cars are a "thing" already, but only in very limited and constrained circumstances. Last time I checked, Google's can only drive on roads where they've meticulously already mapped out everything from the height of the curb to the exact location of the traffic lights. That's not to discount their work, but it's still in the very early stages of the self driving dream of having a car that can drive you anywhere while you watch a movie.
> Self driving cars technology is AI. It is an advancement
If you go back up the comment chain that I was replying to, you'll note that I don't dispute (or even talk about) whether self driving cars is AI or not - I don't really care to take part of that conversation.
I was commenting on whether if you put self driving tech in trucks if it 'can only' self-drive on the highways, and require human drivers to drive the final mile, is that a significant enough improvement to make it worthwhile deploying it?
I know we've made a significant amount of progress when it comes to this sort of stuff, but we're so much further away from the dream of ubiquitous self driving cars (or even where human-driven cars are illegal or have their own financial/legal drawbacks). I know (Google's) self driving cars have driven x-thousand miles, which is crazy impressive, but they've only done that on like .1% of US roads. They also have trouble driving in varying conditions, like rain or construction or whatever. I can't see ubiquitous self driving cars for consumers really happening in the next 20-50 years.
I can see, however, this bits and pieces of this tech make its way into cars (like Tesla's autopilot, or the self-parking features) a lot sooner than that. Or into trucks driving down the highway. And then Uber/GM/whoever launches self-driving transport in select cities on select routes, and then all over the city, and then in every main city.
 Totally made up number, but I assume you'll get my point.
though with the prevalence of texting while driving maybe cars will not necessarily need to always drive but simply take the needed emergency action
This may also make the shift easier on the current labor pool, as they could migrate to local delivery work.
"Safer than human drivers" all too easily becomes "we can't control when these robot trucks my crash into a mother driving her kids to school," when you put it into the political regulation arena.
In your example that one drive is taken off the road. That drive is not a problem, and people assume that the remaining drivers are, for the most part, fine and unlikely to make the same mistake.
In the automated truck example you can't take that one driver off the road because barring equipment failure they are all the same driver and just as likely to make the same mistake.
If one human driver kills in such a manner, people will distrust that one human driver (or at worst that one trucking company, if bad training or other compliance issues are suspected), if one automated truck kills in such a manner people will distrust all automated trucks.
This is precisely the goal of IBM's Watson if you will remember, an individual doctor only has their own experience - Watson can aggregate data from a virtually infinite number of data points and that knowledge and experience is shared across the network.
Will accidents happen? Yes. But we can learn from them and the collective as a whole benefits, not one individual instance.
Now convince the herd that is the general public, who don't really understand the technology, don't have time for a long explanation, and tend to react with instincts and emotions that haven't had much by way of firmware upgrades for quite a few generations.
Probably a lot like software development today except with a lower threshold for error, and hopefully the appropriate increase QA.
Admittedly, deaths are very rare, especially per-trip, 27 per year or 0.00000015% per trip -- self driving cars should be able to get into that level of safety, current automotive fatality rates are around 1 in 100M (or .000001%/mile)
Driver's union versus transportation industry. I have a hunch which way the politicians will sway.
And the emotional appeals cut both ways. How long before the parents of a child killed by a drunk or sleeping truck driver say "Why was he driving anyway? Why wasn't he replaced by a machine that wouldn't drink a six pack and nod off while at the wheel?"
In non tech circles - the vast majority of the world - people are pretty famous for measuring risks by perception and not statistics.
The idea of a robotic truck taking away jobs while also being a risk to life? America would take up mass transit before it buys into that system.
Man I can see the headlines and political/ emotional arguments now. Godless SV tech priests rob Americans of the last few jobs they have. 1% and automation, no job left behind.!
It's useful to remember that People refused seat belts until the argument was irrefutable. Hell doctors didn't wash hands regularly until it was drilled into their heads that they were infecting patients.
And when it come to automated personal care - I bet that People will utterly, vociferously, oppose the loss of their agency in controlling their means of movement.
People have romanticized the man and the horse, the man and the bike, the car - but it's because it's a matter of controlling that power.
Selling that to the American public and the world at large is a multi generational effort.
And then, the rest of the world will have to follow so as not to be left behind an industrial revolution...
As for individuals, the government might gives tax breaks or ban the things. I think it is most that likely early adopters will use them and brag to everyone how much they save on fuel and airline tickets and how more (work, reading, video games, etc... ) they can do while travelling. Of course there will be holdouts, but they will be quickly outnumbered.
Eventually so few manual drivers will be on the road that they are the exception and 99% of the accidents will be their fault. Then states will start banning driving manually.
And why would I want more places I can work, at least when I drive I am not expected to be working.
Also Monsanto has nothing to do with anything here, unless you care to explain.
Nah, it'll be much cheaper than what they pay for humans since the bots will be in far fewer accidents and insurance companies actually care about statistics.
I don't think that's true at all. Recalls are a manufactures problem, the local trucking company is just going to have normal auto insurance just as with his human drivers.
I mean surely this happens now, how do they solve this problem?
The same will be true of automated trucking, parts will be recalled, and companies will have multiple different trucking manufactures to choose from so the notion that all the trucks will be recalled just isn't realistic.
The ultimate point being that the answer might be "decades." It might take that long for the prevailing opinion amongst the public and/or politicians to change that way. And it is affected by the actual accidents involving automated vehicles in the short term.
No, safer than humans is the bar.
Beyond a mandate from the government, I have a hard time seeing the trucking industry giving all their profits over to google, tesla, gm, mercedes, and co.
Why does everyone think we'll be smarter on waiting to deploy driverless cars until they are safe, given our history of doing the exact opposite for the last couple hundred years?
Hell, I can see ways that automated driving can result in a net increase in jobs. Example: if a truck can drive more hours in a day, it'll do more miles per year, requiring more frequent maintenance, requiring more repair mechanics than we currently have. Another: if you're not limited by drivers needing to sleep, you might be able to do a better job of scheduling deliveries to arrive around the clock, requiring more people to be around around the clock.
I'm not saying either of these WILL happen, I'm just saying that automated trucking doesn't HAVE to be a net-negative thing in terms of jobs.
That is a huge difference to most people.
A total of 3,660 people died in large truck crashes in 2014. Sixteen percent of these deaths were truck occupants, 68 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 15 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists. The number of people who died in large truck crashes was 16 percent higher in 2014 than in 2009
One incident would hardly compare to the ~3000 non-trucker deaths ever year due to the trucking industry. I don't think it would be all that tough to find the grandma of one of those 3000 to show up in court in defense of automation. It will be MADD all over again.
I don't live in the US so I might have an inaccurate perception of everyone's leverage. However, truckers seem rather disorganised, compared to superstore chains. If big stores eat up 30% of the savings, and offer the remaining 70% to their customers as lower prices (minus a couple % spent in lobbying of course), I would guess they'd had their way. Ditto for Amazon, Alibaba etc.
Look at Chinese importations: politicians sometimes make big protectionist talks to their constituents, but take no measure effective enough to annoy lobbies. And I think importations represent more jobs than transport.
It's unclear exactly how to turn that into a percentage, but no matter how you do it it's way way more than 99%.
Say an accident takes 5 minutes, and people drive 30 miles/hour. Then that works out to 99.999% for humans. If you use the numbers for fatalities then it's 99.99999%.
That's not even in the same ballpark as 99%.
I think we need to get over the idea that computers are perfect, especially with regards to how artificial intelligence works. There will always be a situation that is unaccounted for, especially in our non-deterministic universe. It may be uncomfortable to think that a life was taken due to an error in processing, but I feel no better about having a child of mine in a car with a barely experienced friend driving and making many more errors in processing.
It'd be awfully "convenient" for the truckers & taxi drivers if this were to happen... I predict a dirty tricks campaign with one or two engineered "accidents" to safeguard their industries.
Vehicles, autonomous and current ones, will need incredibly reliable security to prevent remote hacking.
Also the computer probably doesn't have a bias against cyclist in the first place.