Otto (the self-driving truck company that Uber bought and is now shuttering) was the first I'd heard of that. It's a bit sad that they're shutting down.
Edit: even on 'simple' point A to point B route that involve 99% highway, what happens when a small part of the highway shuts down for whatever reason (flooding, multi-lan accident, fire, etc) and all traffic is routed on smaller adjacent streets, or forced to share a lane with oncoming traffic. Automating a truck is as hard or harder than automating a car, since you're dealing with the same external variables but have more internal/attached moving parts.
Self-driving taxis, OTOH, feel like they've got a much longer way to go before they can generate any real profit.
Don't get me wrong, I find aircraft automation impressive. But there is a massive human workforce that makes it possible for the cabin crew to run planes on autopilot. There's a mountain of rigid regulations, licensing and certifications that control every part of that workforce. Every part of each aircraft. Every piece of communication.
That's not how the roads work.
We just don‘t place them inside the aircraft.
I would also add that aircraft are monitored by ground control stations, while cars are controlled by the driver alone.
That's only if nothing goes wrong. On the other hand, if the airplane I'm in loses both its engines and has to land on the Hudson River, I'd much prefer to have an experienced pilot and copilot in the cockpit.
(Note that it's not fully autonomous, the pilots still need to do quite a few things like lower flaps, extend the landing gear, ....
Driving on the open road requires real intelligence. Not the pretend intelligence that modern AI gives, but real understanding of situations and terrain. Before that happens (which is basically skynet, and a very very long time away) all you have is a bag of tricks cobbled together. Those tricks will miss things and get confused and make mistakes. Maybe not very often but definitely in strange ways that are frightening.
The unknown is scary. Drunk drivers, tired drivers, old drivers, et al. are plenty dangerous, but they still behave in ways that can be understood. AI mistakes will be / are / have been strange unsettling things that can't be reasoned about if you're a person in the area of the misbehaving vehicle.
People used to say this about every single thing that computers can do better than people.
In my college town, some pedestrians got ran over by a driver who later pled insanity due to "caffeine-induced psychosis". I think you're seriously overrating the predictability of human failure modes.
But computers can't do it better than people! That's what drives me nuts about this debate -- it's just accepted as a premise that either the self-driving cars are much safer than human drivers, or the path to getting them there is very close and no serious obstacles remain. Neither is true and it's not clear they will be. https://blog.piekniewski.info/2017/05/11/a-car-safety-myths-...
Let's say we have a self-driving car that is as safe as the 20th percentile human driver. Do we allow that self-driving car on the roads? Do we selectively revoke licenses from 1 out of every 5 drivers and replace them with a car that's at least as safe as they are if not probably safer? Do we replace breathalyzer interlocks for drivers with DUI convictions with an AI driver and just revoke their licenses permanently?
There isn't a trivial solution to this problem. At some point, some AI driver is going to cause an accident that would not have been caused by a 95th percentile human driver. At the same time, human drivers do shit like this all the time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oidHSzukSss
Which is an odd phenomenon to me. I can't even get Google Assistant to understand me 3/4 of the time, yet I'm supposed to take it on faith that autonomous cars are inhumanly safe?
In other words, much of the autonomous robot debate here is based on handwaving, wishful thinking and No True Autonomous Scotsman (...would run over a human).
Did they though? Think about things that computers can do better than people: they're mainly things that we completely predicted computers would be better at (arithmetic, precision manufacturing, drafting, telecommunications routing). Beyond that, you're left with things computers are only better at dependent on priority, the canonical example being service jobs where economics trump's QoS; computers are much worse than a cashier, but comparatively cheaper by a margin that makes the quality compromise worth it.
The only possible exception I could think of that's come up in recent discourse is diagnosing patients, but even that, while encroaching on a role that has traditionally been revered as a career, is still something that seems at least on the surface to be quite predictable given the nature of what's required to make diagnoses (simultaneous access to a trove of data and knowledge).
Beyond the above, I think it's pretty reasonable that there's a broad range of things computers will not be better than humans at for a very very long time, if ever.
And I don’t think the problems computers have proven themselves useful in solving have been what most people expected. Chess, Go, facial recognition, Jeopardy, image classification (hot dog or not), captchas (clearly, since they’re designed specifically to resist computer solutions), etc. seem to me to be things that, before computers proved to be decent at, would have been widely considered to require intelligence on the level of humans.
But there aren't any formally-specified rules for driving cars, and this isn't obvious.
Nope, despite a myriad of road codes, the actual traffic doesn't follow a set of formalized rules: a chess rook can't just decide that it will start disintegrating all of a sudden, as opposed to a vehicle. You could probably approximate the ruleset if you made it self-modifying...which will then demolish your second point about near-exhaustively searching the state space - good luck doing that before the heat death of the universe, as you're essentially simulating the whole environment. Oh look, there's also weather. How's that exhaustively searchable? Asking for the Nobel Prize committee.
For the sake of discussion, let's say that a miracle happens and you managed to do all that - but sorry, it's useless again, the few seconds have already elapsed and you need to do it again. And again. And again, ad infinitum.
Now, I could envision "by our current technology, we can't yet, but we're hoping for a miracle in this specific spot" - but "assuming a massive miracle happens every few seconds, for each vehicle" is completely removed from reality: why not have teleports, if we're in magical wish-granting land already?
For highway driving Waymo had 6 disengagements in 2017, street: 57.
Total driven: 352000 miles
1 disengagement for "a recklessly behaving road user"
5 for "incorrect behavior prediction of other traffic participants"
Seems like predicting other people is almost perfect, the others were more internal problems.
Driving a car when a weird thing happens isn't that complicated: You stop, braking at the minimum amount required to do so safely, to avoid cars behind you hitting you
(In other words, yes, it might be eventually possible to have self-driving vehicles, but pretending that the search space is bounded, or even near-exhaustively searchable a la chess - that's just pure technobabble)
Anyway, self driving cars will only get better, and the more of them there are the better they will be, because no humans around doing weird things who don't talk over the SDC network to explain where they're going
Rather, I suspect, tasks which computers start outperforming humans in we reanalyse as "completely procedural". Nobody called chess procedural in the middle of last century.
Historically AI chess (e.g. "Deep Blue" or Stockfish) is played by machines using one heuristic to estimate how "good" positions are without truly knowing, not so dissimilar from how humans evaluate a chess position. and then another heuristic to try out moves to get to further positions. The machine considers possible plays and how they affect the heuristic "value" of the board, preferring those with more value. Human Chess AI authors design the two heuristics used, though they often aren't very good at actually playing chess because it's a different skill.
Google's AlphaZero AI plays chess differently again, it had no preconceptions of how to play Chess, instead it learned through self-play - it knows the rules of the game but began with no idea what's a good or bad move, it adapted its own heuristics based on how well they'd won or lost. It actually recapitulated most of human chess theory history over its incubation period of thousands of games, discovering ideas like the Sicilian Defence for itself, new attacks would at first see overwhelming success, and then, playing versions of itself that had seen these attacks, they'd be defended more effectively.
Alpha Zero plays a radically "more human" style of chess than most modern human Chess grandmasters, huge multi-move strategies in which pieces are sacrificed to take positional advantage. It looks like something humans were doing last century - except Alpha Zero does it much better than they ever did.
The problem is that you lack an evaluation function. Let's consider two of those 100 possible moves. Your rook could take this opposing pawn, or, your own pawn could move forward one space. Which is better? Why? Neither of them immediately wins the game, but we must pick something. In a smaller, tighter game, like Tic-Tac-Toe we could crank our exhaustive search until we discover that this opening move leads to a possible win... but the search space in Chess is categorically too enormous for that.
Both Google's Alpha Zero and simple human play encourages the belief that a good evaluation heuristic is essential. The evaluation heuristic looks at a board position and it doesn't recommend a move it says something like "I rate this position 0.418" where 1.0 is "I'll definitely win on my turn" and -1.0 is "My opponent wins on their turn". Google's engine contemplates relatively few possible moves (for a computer) but the results are striking because it's looking at _good_ moves more of the time rather than wasting a lot of time thinking about moves that are a bad idea.
This seems obvious, but, well, learn chess and see for yourself.
Here's an example of a simple chess engine that is good enough to beat amateur human players at least some of the time:
Even if that’s true (and I doubt it is), there is ample precedent (AI winter) for the industry dramatically overestimating what computers can do.
I bet if you time traveled and showed Siri/Cortana to an AI researcher from 1960 they’d be incredibly disappointed.
It's a common misconception that the 1960s and 1970s were a time of unbridled enthusiasm in AI. In fact, there was a ton of pessimism back then too: for example, ALPAC  was so pessimistic about the future of natural language processing that it got the US government to pull most of its funding.
I think if you were to show Siri, Alexa, etc. to some of those folks they'd be pleased that we've gotten as far as we have, while acknowledging the obvious fact that there's plenty more to do.
Weight ~1 ton, cost ~1 million dollars inflation adjusted, non toxic, delivery date ~1990. What did they want? A 1 GB random access HDD.
A 32 gigabyte micro SD card for 10$ would have blown their mind let alone a smartphone.
Reading stuff written in the 1960s about what today would be like, what strikes me is that technology is so incredibly not mind blowing compared to what we had back then. Even in the area of computers. Hell, we haven't even come up with an input device that beats keyboards, which were invented in the 19th century (electro-mechanical keyboards, not typewriters).
Just continuing with the storage example, for decades now we've all been witness to data storage sizes growing massively, while the housing of said data storage has shrunk in size tremendously - as has the cost.
So when a couple MB of incredibly slow storage weighs thousands of pounds and costs millions of dollars, I do think the concept of tens/hundreds of GB of super fast flash memory contained within an object the size of a thumbnail would be mindblowing, whereas your example of
>a 100 petabyte drive using, say, magneto-resistive memory (or something else based on anticipated, if not fully developed physics)
wouldn't, just because we already all know how far technology has come since the 60s.
1980: IBM introduces the first gigabyte hard drive. It is the size of a refrigerator, weighs about 550 pounds, and costs $40,000.
That’s ~1/10the the cost and 1/4 the weight they where looking for. You really could do vastly better in 1990. For ~2,300$ you could get a 700 MB HDD buy 3 and your talking 1.4 GB with redundancy for ~1% of his budget.
PS: If I extrapolate current trends and say we might get a self driving 400 HP Honda Civic in 2050. Then someone says sort of a Tito costs 3,000$ has 50,000 HP but nobody drives that under powered piece of crap. It would be a shift in how you think about things.
> This note speculates about the emergence of personal, portable information manipulators and their effects when used by both children and adults. Although it should be read as science fiction, current trends in miniaturization and price reduction almost guarantee that many of the notions discussed will actually happen in the near future.
The paper is a great read. He basically imagined that in the future we'd develop the iPad and some high quality educational software for children. Forty years later, we can proudly say we've successfully developed half those things.
>> if you time traveled and showed Siri/Cortana to an AI researcher from 1960 they’d be incredibly disappointed.
Who were those people, who said those things (i.e. where they AI researchers, or computer scientists?). And what exactly did they say?
There have always been strong criticisms of AI (e.g. ) and opinions dismissing computers voiced by people who did not have an adequate understanding of computers.
The interesting thing is to see what the people in the know actually thought over the years and what they think right now.
Edit: to clarify, what AI researchers usually do is overhype the capabilities of their systems and claim they can achieve things that they never manage to show they can- completely the opposite than saying that "computers can't do that".
 "What computers can't do" by Hubert Dreyfus
And they were right, until they were eventually wrong. There will be this phase for automated vehicles too.
I agree -- but it's even worse. Even if robots do make human-like mistakes, that doesn't mean humans will be forgiving of the same mistakes. For one thing, I might forgive a human being unable to react due to a 1/2-second reaction time, but I sure as heck wouldn't be that forgiving for a robot. I would expect and demand an order of magnitude better. For another thing, people have more tolerance for mistakes made by "closer kin", if you will. (e.g. if my own child steals from me, even 10x as much as a random thief does, that doesn't mean the thief can expect more lenience than I had for my kid.) Self-driving cars pretty much have to be strictly _and_ significantly better than more than the majority of humans for people to trust having them around. Merely being better than average, even if it's in all respects, isn't necessarily enough to cut it.
Drop the "robot" -- it's cleaner.
And, with respect to freight, a lot of the easy automation is handled by trains. A huge amount of truly long distance freight in the US (including but not limited to bulk cargo) goes by train for much of its overland transport.
"But we should let it out on the road, it drives on par with an insane, legally blind and completely drunk driver" is not a very convincing proposition.
Long distance highway driving except that one highway exit on 101 that kills you. I'm just saying that when human lives are at stake, bottoms up approach may not be as feasible as with web software.
The conversations on the topic that I've heard involve building special, dedicated exits, sort of like truck weigh stations. And having them live not particularly close to urban centers.
So it a bit more of a holistic approach than bottom up, and something that will take a while to implement since you're not able to roll it out everywhere at once.
Not to say that there still won't be issues. I'm sure there will be. And I'm sure there's a long way to go still. But its also not a black and white issue.
Much of the process of getting close to this point can be done with the latest A.I. tools, but I have this nagging feeling we're going to need humans to fine tune a whole lot of 'last mile' stuff.
It just has to be better than the average driver.
How many people do _you_ know that consider themselves below-average drivers?
Are you trying to make people make fun of us?
Plane autopilot only works because air is so empty and flying in the same direction at constant elevation is unlikely to result in any problem. There are repeated examples of both pilots falling asleep and planes over-shooting destination airports, for example.
I think the idea we’ll attain this in the next decade or two is borderline delusional, but to each their own.
Commercial aviation is one of the safest transportation mechanisms in the world; aircraft can go runway to runway in mostly automated fashion (auto throttle/TOGA [take off go around] for takeoff, autopilot for cruise, autoland for landing). We (customers and regulators) still require human attention the entire time.
At that point you're getting no more bang for your buck, since the operator is going to be subject to the same limits on time behind the wheel as a driver of a non-autonomous truck. And you're not getting any more safety, because, as Uber and Tesla have been illustrating for us so vividly, a self-driving system that needs a human overseer can't drive safely, and a human who isn't physically in control of the car at all times can't oversee safely.
(Edit: This is, naturally, not accounting for the need for a transitional period while getting the technology bootstrapped. But that's time invested in developing the tech, not time where the tech generates any profit.)
Human lives and property loss are expensive. The average cost of a fatal crash is well over $3 million. The average cost of a large truck crash that does not involve a death is approximately $62,000. Settlement payouts due to big rig accidents are roughly $20 billion per year.
You don’t need to replace the driver to see significant upside.
That may be in large part due to the substantial government subsidation of car/truck traffic through public roads, not the merits of one against the other.
1. (As others have mentioned) a lot of freight is intermodal so containers in particular shipped for long distances by train also travel by truck for the first and last X miles.
2. A lot of freight is relatively local in nature, so it makes more sense for it not to be intermodal.
Self driving cars and trucks is a very hard topic.
With the today's technology, it might work only on hypothetical straight and perfect roads and during the day.
Work in progress, floods, snow, holes, traffic and /r/IdiotsInCars are factors not taking into account for today's algorithms, because the data and the tests are missing.
I see that the automated trucks might be the vehicles of the future, but a driver (or "operator") should be always present onboard, just like it happens for planes and ships
Having known a few truck drivers myself—including my father—and having a very good friend who was permanently paralyzed by another friend driving a standard car, these things don’t influence each other. The trucking industry is far safer than your average driver.
> The ratio of big rigs to commuter cars is presently out of control!
The numbers disagree with you. That ratio is currently about 1:135.
: a couple quick searches place big rigs at about 2M in 2017 compared to nearly 270M registered passenger vehicles in 2016.
I never implied that these were hard facts they were my opinion. What is your opinion? We need more trucks on the road? To me 1:135 is out of control- that's my opinion.
Given the facts available on safety records of licensed, commercial truck drivers vs normal drivers—the latter of whom outnumber safer drivers 135:1—it seems sensible to me to form an opinion that the 135 less-safe drivers need to be dealt with before we get too worried about the 1 safer driver. The overwhelming majority of multi-vehicle accidents with big rigs find the passenger car driver to be at fault—we’re talking from 70-90%, based on types of crashes. Non-truck crashes outnumber truck crashes by roughly 3:1 per 100M vehicle miles traveled. This seems to indicate non-truck drivers pose the greatest threat on the roads to public safety.
So sure, form any opinion you like. But maybe be more careful to share them as obvious opinions that aren’t implying they are actually fact-based—by stating you know something is true or declaring the ratio of something is out of control—or someone is likely going to call out those statements as being questionable when compared to the facts of reality. There’s no clear evidentiary basis for arriving at an opinion on a correct ratio of trucks:non-trucks, other than the data we have seems to indicate that fewer passenger cars on the roads is the surest way to increase public safety.
: For a new link summarizing various studies—http://www.trucking.org/ATA%20Docs/News%20and%20Information/...
> Human truck drivers already have regular accidents due to fatigue.
Fatigue accounts for 13% of truck driver-caused accidents according to DOT. Fatigue is coded twice as often for passenger vehicles as it is for commercial truck drivers.
Moreover, the rate of commercial rigs involved in accidents with passenger vehicles is quite low. The rate of single-vehicle accidents is also lower among commercial trucks. Commercial trucking continues to grow increasingly safer every year since we’ve been keeping track in the 70s.
Maybe relevant disclaimer: my father is a truck driver and we regularly talk about this stuff. His experiences have led me to do a bit of research and study on the matter. I don’t work for or on anything trucking-related.
My understanding is that the industry (and maybe this has changed or was not good anecdata to begin with) is rife with gaming of the regulations, which in my opinion are already grueling. A human being, no matter how accustomed they are to driving, should not be asked to sit and drive down long mundane stretches of road at a high degree of alertness for 11 hours per day, multiple days per week. I understand that the new time tracking systems will reduce the ability to game the system, but I feel the fact that regulators are calling for these devices and driver awareness monitoring devices should be an indication that maybe we can find a solution that doesn't involve a human.
"A total of 3,986 people died in large truck crashes in 2016. Seventeen percent of these deaths were truck occupants, 66 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 16 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists. The number of people who died in large truck crashes was 27 percent higher in 2016 than in 2009, when it was the lowest it has been since the collection of fatal crash data began in 1975. The number of truck occupants who died was 47 percent higher than in 2009."
Do you have numbers for dead truck occupants per mile driven? It could be that this is due to truck traffic being lower overall during the 2008/2009 crisis.
You should be asking "can a robot drive for 12+ hrs without fatigue?" or "can we eliminate the restrictive, expensive and often gamed system of keeping drivers within their hours?" This is were long-haul transport could be "disrupted"
I'm not sure you understand what a "brake check" means. It isn't checking the brakes for current functionality. It means a visual inspection of all the brake parts to ensure they aren't going to stop working somewhere literally down the road. It is checking for pins, debris, excessive or unusual wear, or leaks. It would require 3d vision backed up by some serious AI to understand what is going on. And you would probably need some sort of robotic actuator to remove any debris blocking inspection areas.
When you see a truck stopped by the road with the driver walking around the trailer, he is probably doing a legally mandated "brake check". It isn't just pumping the brakes to see they are still there.
Computers can check if a brake is working or if the cargo is well balanced better than a human. One could do those today with cheap (on the 100's of dollars) electronics and few lines of code. Nobody does this because it's 100's of dollars more than letting the driver do the same.
I think truckers would absolutely love it if this was the case. It would save them so much time waiting on loading/unloading, which decreases their pay.
You could have multiple cameras on the load using computer vision to detect movement. You could have weight sensors sending feedback to the system. I'm sure there are many ways to do this, and any of them would beat a human behind the wheel.
You're right in that there are many ways to do this, but none have come even close to beating a decent human behind the wheel.
Why do you think we need to get to the level of top 10%-20% of commercial drivers? How do you come to that cutoff point? If we had automated trucks that could move freight 24/7 with even 5% better than average accident rates (for example) would be a huge win.
Whisper asphalt is also still somewhat rare and doesn't solve the problem entirely.
Who cares? That's how trucks are different. Somebody at the company just calls the fuel station and say "Hey, I want to refuel my trucks there, when they get there, you refuel them, and I pay you at the end of the week. Deal?"
> React to a load that becomes unsecure mid route?
How common is that? You basically have the truck phone home and send somebody there to solve the issue. Depending on the likelihood it can be a major cost by hiring people every so distance, or a delay you just deal with to something that is solved by dispatching people by plane.
> How will it deal with a stowaway?
Most likely, it won't.
> Brake inspection before a big hill?
By braking and checking the acceleration, just like a human. In two axes and paying attention to frequency responses, what a human can't do.
> How common is that? You basically have the truck phone home and send somebody there to solve the issue. Depending on the likelihood it can be a major cost by hiring people every so distance, or a delay you just deal with to something that is solved by dispatching people by plane.
First off, how do you detect a load that has become unsecured? I saw bees on a flatbed getting hauled. How do you detect that the net is no longer tied down securely besides looking at it occasionally.
Hauling livestock is one of those difficult hauling items. If you accelerate or decelerate too fast, they die.
Or how about the tale of the worst load ever - Oregon Potato Chips to Texas ( https://www.dat.com/blog/post/my-worst-load-ever-hauling-ore... ). While that one has a "ok, this needs to be another factor in the routing" - local barometric pressure could cause a problem.
Brake inspections are likely less of an issue than chains for that storm that just hit. The storm that dumps a foot of snow on I80 over the Sierras. That's not too much - but everything needs to chain up unless its a 4 wheel drive pickup trick. That includes the semis.
Or a wind advisory over the Mackinac bridge ( https://www.channel3000.com/news/mackinac-bridge-partially-c... )
> The bridge that typically enables travelers to pass over the Straits of Mackinac has been closed to all vehicles except passenger cars, passenger vans and empty pickup trucks, authorities said.
> Motorists permitted to travel across are advised to reduce speeds to 20 miles per hour and to be prepared to stop.
And your robot just lost is license for not performing a proper pre-hill brake check. Large trucks are not cars.
Then look in this pdf for "En route inspections"
A vehicle inspection at a rest and check
stop should include the following:
• All lights are clean and in working order.
• There are no air leaks.
• All the wheels are secure, and tires are
properly inflated and are not hot.
• There are no broken or loose items on
• The load is secure.
• The dangerous goods placards are
clean and secure (if applicable).
• The trailer locking mechanisms are
secure and in good condition.
• The brakes are properly adjusted.
These procedures assume human eyes. A robot might be able to tick all the boxes via sensors, but that isn't going to be enough to constitute due care when something goes wrong.
It would not surprise me if even with all of the extra fuel (which wouldn't even really be realistic because no one has a route from Seattle to Miami) if the weight difference was a wash between the two. At the very least so long as it can be loaded with fuel at the origin and destination it's not really a concern.
Trucks are more expensive: cost of sensing and compute is smaller relative cost to the vehicle.
Lots of rules about roadways and times: computers are great at adhering to, enforcing, and providing logged accountability.
Monitoring size and load: sounds much more tractable compared to general City street driving.
Yes, the initial cost is about that. But, the truck is directly making money whenever it's rolling, and an automated truck would presumably roll more than a driven truck, since that's an advertised feature. A car is usually only indirectly making money at best during the few hours of the day that it rolls (getting you to work, or to the park and ride).
BTW, there has been a partial solution to "trucks don't make money when the driver sleeps" problem for years. Team driving. You have two drivers, and one sleeps in the back while the other drives. That gives a truck up to 22 possible hours per day, 11 federally regulated hours per driver.
> Edit: even on 'simple' point A to point B route that involve 99% highway, what happens when a small part of the highway shuts down for whatever reason (flooding, multi-lan accident, fire, etc) and all traffic is routed on smaller adjacent streets? Automating a truck is as hard or harder than automating a car, there's no way around it.
As I mentioned elsewhere, if automated trucks are on the road, what you describe would already be solved by necessity, because you already have to go through surface streets to get you your shipper or receiver. Or, in an often imagined scenario, to get to the "freight yard" where humans would drive the first and last miles. Yes, automating a truck is at least as hard as automating a car.
The actual problem in your emergency scenario is getting the truck to follow the diversion. Right now it's cop-eyeball to trucker-eyeball communication, or even just an orange sign on a saw horse. That'll have to be worked out, plus fallbacks, but it will.
Automated trucks seem appealing because they solve (what appears to me to be) a large problem with human drivers - fatigue and allowable working hours.
Building a fixed-route automated truck seems more doable than a self-driving car that can handle arbitrary roads. I don't know if it's actually any easier, but the problems that need to be solved seem smaller in scope.
Among other things, I’m guessing most americans who own a car don’t do it because they’ve crunched the numbers compared to other transit options and figured out that a car is cheaper. It’s a convenience thing where it’s an option at all.
Meanwhile, it’d be fairly easy to demonstrate marginal savings in a business where transit costs are already under high scrutiny.
Isn't that a good thing for adoption?
Here in the agricultural industry, self-driving technology can cost tens of thousands of dollars to add it to your equipment. But when a tractors cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, it seems like a drop in the bucket, so the buyers are willing to put down the money. You don't see many tractors around these days without it.
On the other hand, tens of thousands of dollars on a $30,000 car, potentially doubling the purchase price or more, makes for a much more difficult pill to swallow.
Humans aren't exactly well known for their rationality. Even if the technology provides tens of thousands of dollars worth of utility to the car owner as it does to the farmer, many will struggle to accept paying 100% more for the same car plus one more feature. Farmers see it as a 5% increase in price for one more feature, so, hey, why not tack it on?
Add in the fatigue and long, repetitive drives that are a feature of long-distance trucking, and it seems like a situation more ripe for automation.
If it was an easy and profitable problem to solve it would have been solved by now. I agree that it would be very beneficial for everyone if trucks/truck routes were automated (except maybe the truck drivers getting laid off) but it's obviously a very hard and very risky problem to automate.
In fact, Otto probably suffered negative impact from its association with the Waymo scandal, coupled with the recent bad press for Uber's autonomous vehicles. It sounds like Uber is retrenching in favor of just automating cabs for now.
No one said it was easy. The issue was easier than another problem that is also not yet solved, not easy in some absolute sense.
Part of his duties is to fly out and bring back new trucks and he was telling me that some of the new trucks have lane assist, cameras, an automatic distance feature where his speed to stopping distance is calculated and the if he crosses that threshold the truck will apply the brakes to slow him down to a safe driving speed (I think he mentioned he can override this feature). He also said there are alarms to let him know when he gets to close to a lane line, etc. I imagine that eventually there will be sensors in the steering wheel that can measure his condition/attention and relay that back to dispatch so they can monitor his wellness and how alert he is, etc.
Lots of interesting technology is making its way into the cab to help the driver be safer on the roads and probably is the result of some of this new self driving tech filtering it's way down.
~~I find that surprising, but it may be because he works for a large trucking company. The vast majority of truckers on the road are Owner-Operators and can easily pull down 150K+.~~
While looking for some facts to back this up, I came across this link  which talked about how even though drivers earn 183K on average, expenses eat that away and the average take home is 50-60K.
There are people making six figures but it is not the norm.
As a recovery driver he flies around the country picking up brand new trucks or trucks that have been abandoned by a driver (sometimes they just walk away), or a driver quits because he realizes he can't earn a living, or gets fired. A few have been when a driver passes away. Typically the only folks getting rich in Trucking are the big companies/owners.
In terms of economics, the trucker provides a set of hands exactly when the truck arrives. The alternative is a set of hands waiting on the loading dock...docks, one at each end of the route and all stops in between. The trucker is the one person authorized to move all the different shipments within the trailer. The cost of employing a driver is often rounding error compared to the value of the goods being transported. Picture UPS but where customers load and unload their own packages.
I'd put it this way, the least interesting part of truck automation is on the highway. And that's still in moonshot territory.
Self driving experts can easily pull in salaries of $5M plus per year, and this stuff takes many years. To build a team of those people, you need to burn an insane amount of cash.
That much cash is only available from investors if the reward is huge. Replacing all interstate trucking is a much smaller potential reward than replacing all human transportation.
Hence everyone is working on the harder, but much higher reward projects.
I think this is an exaggeration by almost an order of magnitude, unless you are referring to the handful of people that have had successful exits in this space.
Only recently approved, though: https://www.smartrailworld.com/mind-blowing-rio-tinto-autono...
Some day some billionaire will figure out there's a bunch of wasted potential in the train transportation network and get to work fixing it.
But... Uber was planning to do exactly this ! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ge-4uWmuESQ
When n is at the much larger scale of trucks, efficient scheduling requires a large number of "slack" pilots to handle modest variations in demand.
We basically just need to dig two N-foot-wide trench lanes and have a loop of cars constantly flowing between them, simply like a gondola where the shipping containers get swooped up by crane-lift once they exit the loop.
Cover the trench so that people cant mess with it...
Why do train systems need to involve so many humans?
Also, nothing about driving extra long distances in remote areas where there may not be any type of cell signal, or in places where GPS can be lost (no line of sight to satellites, or places where there are tree/building cover, etc) is predicable.
How much of that could be solved by a fly-by-wire control system?
Things it warns about: emergency vehicles (!), open bridges, speed/red light cameras (name is based upon this), (dynamic) speed limits (if on a highway it shows e.g. 70 instead of 130 the app will know), stopped vehicles, bad road, etc.
I'm guessing they had to cooperate with a lot of different government bodies to make all of the functionality possible. Anyway, it works quite well in practice. Also, emergency vehicle notification is automatic, it's not based on people needing to report it!
Not every town is near an interstate.
You arrive from the northwesternmost link, the outer lanes south are blocked, so police opens up the service link (which is normally physically closed by a barrier and correctly mapped as "no access") and routes the traffic through it, into the inner lanes.
Now you also have an indecisive truck sitting in the mess, waiting for a human to intervene.
And interstates are what we're talking about here.
Ive seen things and these self driving cars are already here.
Some of the things these trucks transport is required for very large & expensive projects which get more so with excessive delays.
Paying a human trained in properly securing a load and changing a tyre nearly as big as the human is, to come along for the ride, is much cheaper than having a helicopter on standby every ~500km of the way and staff to be ready.
Not yet they can't.
Oh wait, I've heard that expressed before! "A mere matter of programming."
The data used to train a car is very different from the data useful to trucking.
Now consider the fact that each truck carries 100s of thousands of dollars of goods. The wages you pay to driver can easily compensate for the insurance benefits because insurance companies may cover for human mistake but not for the algorithms mistake. Even if autonomous algorithm was 10X better than human, when it takes on responsibility of driving 1000 trucks, it would commit 100X more accidents than an average human. If a truck driver gets in to serious accident every 20 years, an algorithms will be blamed for a serious truck accident every 2.4 months - even if it was 100X better than human! It's an inescapable law of large numbers. (PS: this doesn't mean there are more accidents in total. It means number of blames assigned to same entity is much higher even though overall accident count is smaller).
The autonomous trucking had been attractive only for one reason really: You can avoid last mile. Highways are much more easier for autonomous driving where you rarely have to deal with crossing peds, traffic lights, round abouts etc.
You're comparing 1 driver driving 1 truck to 1 "algorithm" driving 1000 trucks and then comparing the nominal number of accidents.
I'm not an insurer, but I highly doubt they care about individual (human or otherwise) performance. I would bet they do care quite a bit about the accident rates you're attempting to dismiss.
Could you explain this? Are you comparing an algorithm driving 100 trucks to 1 human driving 1 truck?
The single algorithm will not outperform the individual driver if it drives more trucks, but it will outperform the aggregate group of drivers needed to drive the same amount of trucks.
This is simply a non-argument against automated driving, it does not make sense.
Those regulations protect the people living next to heavy routes, not the drivers. Similar to how airports cannot operate 24/7.
> Those regulations protect the people living next to heavy routes, not the drivers.
They're talking about amount of time in a driver's day spent driving, not what part of the day they drive. And those regs definitely are to protect the drivers, as well as all other involved parties and stakeholders.
Semi complete list for europe: http://www.lkw-walter.com/en/carrier/useful-info/public-holi...
Some truck stop fuel islands have a lane where a human will come out and check/fill your tires. You pay for the service, and it's not much.
Most humans, or the occupations, are cheap, as you can see when you think about all those humans paid to stand on street corners and wave signs. Cheaper than paying to plant the sign on property, and a cheap enough workaround when you can't plant the sign at any price.
Over time, though, building a network of compatible automated fueling stations to support the trucks makes sense, and you can use data from the trucks for siting decisions.
Assuming you need to terminate by truck on at least one end of the shipment, it takes about 500 miles for rail's natural efficiencies to make it cost advantageous. That's a very rough rule of thumb, but it's rare to be able to make the case for rail in less than that. (Some specialized situations, like mining ore in unit trains, are exceptions.)
Automating personal vehicles has the potential for a lot of efficiency gain too, if people stop owning cars privately. Taxi drivers tend to buy "efficient" models, vehicles that will do a lot of miles/€, so there's a gain here. There would be a shift in consumption habits, as a response to pay as you go pricing. Possibly more ""efficient" consumption, maybe even some new forms of public transport.
In terms of infrastructure, you'd need less parking which frees up valuable and scarce space. It could eliminate the parking industry, rental industry, taxi industry and such. All (potentially scary) consequences of efficancy gains.
Back to commercial vehicles... One way to think of potential efficiency gains is (driver cost)/(total cost) of a journey. Trucks are expensive. A long distance truck journey uses a lot of fuel & maintanence. So, the driver's wages are a smaller overall part of the journey, a smaller potential efficiency gain per journey.
That doesn't tell us much about economy-wide gains, but it does tell us something about disruption. Self driving taxis could reduce the price of taxis by 50% or more. This has major implications for how and how much people consume. For long haul trucks, it probably changes the industry less.
No, they'd be at least as complicated as automating cars, because there are no delivery destinations on the freeway. You have to go through the same surface streets as cars, and it's much harder to drive a truck and trailer through busy and small surface streets than to drive a car.
Doing the same but with pools can of driverless trucks all dropping off trailers at a designated transfer yard would require very little modification to this very mature but little known niche of freight logistics. The economics would be similar.
Making the driver's life better (and ours too) should be the benefit.
For the other cases, automated trucks would make a lot of sense, even just for the last miles.
I often wonder how much of the push to automated cars is due to an US centric vision of the world.
I would expect there to be more raw interest in automated or semi-automated trucking in Europe than in the US, and perhaps there will be once the technology is proven and regulatory issues are ironed out.
OTOH, I'd imagine you are correct that the interest in driverless passenger cars is related to the car-centricity of US cities and the lack of public transport options. Many people are seemingly looking to "driverless Uber" as the solution for congested cities, ignoring the established solutions to the same problems, because they aren't things the private sector can deliver.
It doesn't seem that ridiculous even with humans - high value loads often have police escorts in my country for this reason.
I think traveling faster requires quadraticly more energy though.
E = ---
The money you'd save is by not having your truck sit idle while the driver slept. You could thus deliver the same amount of freight with fewer trucks. However, trucks would wear out faster due being run for more hours per day.
>The money you'd save is by not having your truck sit idle while the driver slept.
That wouldn't save money. Operating actually costs money, though your total money may increase if the operation is profitable.
Reminds me of the Pony Express.