A few big news stories out of the autonomous trucking world, which is a place that has been mostly quiet for the last year.
TechCrunch reports a number of interesting factoids. There was a safety driver. The safety driver had to take control of the vehicle many times (“usually only a few seconds”). Embark is not using high-definition maps, although they appear to be using lidar. Their goal is not to replace, but to augment, the human driver.
Recently, TechCrunch also reported that Uber Freight is hauling real cargo using autonomous trucks in Arizona, albeit there appears to be a safety driver involved.
Uber’s promotional video has a few interesting notes of its own. They appear to be very careful to stay within Arizona state lines. They’re also making a big deal out of the human interest angle — the self-driving truck works in tandem with human truck drivers and makes their work more enjoyable. They can be home in time for dinner.
Riding the coattails of the Uber Freight press, Starsky Robotics upped the ante by sending a truly driverless vehicle — no safety driver — onto the highway.
Sort of. It was seven miles and the highway was totally closed to other traffic.
As somebody with a lot of extended family spread across Florida, I loved this observation:
“In true Florida Man fashion, founder and CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher decided to do something much bolder and a bit scarier: In mid-February, in the Sunshine State (where regulations are as lax as those in Arizona), he sent his truck down the road for a 7-mile journey — with nobody inside.”
Note that practically the first thing that appears in their promo video is an alligator. Florida!
Not to be outdone, Elon Musk announced on Instagram that Tesla Semis are hauling batteries from the Nevada Gigafactory to the California car plant. It’s not clear whether Autopilot was involved.
Finally, Waymo announced last week (on Medium, no less), that they are poised to begin delivering real self-driving freight in Atlanta. Atlanta, you will remember, is also the city where Waymo’s public ridesharing tests are coming next.
Waymo’s trucks will be hauling freight for…Google data centers. Hey, everybody’s gotta start somewhere.
Ironically, Waymo trucks do not have their own YouTube promotional video.