Automated Mode Engaged: Here Comes Otto . . . the Self-Driving Truck

Ottomotto

Computer Driver On-board

A company called new company, Ottomotto, LLC, is working on retrofitting tractors to drive autonomously, without a driver on-board.

Ottomoto’s target market is interstate trucking.

. . . the technology would effectively double the output of the U.S. transportation network at 25 percent of the cost. Techcrunch, Apr. 26, 2016

 

Risk Areas of Autonomous Trucks

Not every driving contingency fits into a neat algorithm. There are certain situations in which drivers literally need to see around corners. For example, one top race car driver slammed on the brakes going into a blind corner when he noticed the crowd was looking in a different direction— they could see a crash that he could not.

Autonomous vehicle researchers have found that driving is mostly about situational awareness. This is true not only for motor vehicles but for anyone flying a plane or even running a train, as the investigative reports about AmTrack 188 seem to indicate. Safety experts have been saying this for years.

One risk of current autonomous vehicle technology is that a driver needs to step in if required. At that time, the driver would have to be fully “situationally aware.”

Another risk is having a new or inexperienced driver at the controls in an autonomous vehicle emergency. New regulations would need to be crafted for that contingency.

Failure is Not An Option . . . Or is It?

If one looks at how the U.S. space program started, only a select few were allowed to participate. When manned spaceflight was new, no one what would happen. Test pilots formed the first group of astronauts.

In ushering in the new era of self-driving trucks, it seems that the driver is being ignored. Pundits are already predicting millions of truck drivers will soon be unemployed.

And that seems to me to be a big mistake. Much of what a truck driver does will not fit into someone’s idea of the way things should be.

In fact, Steve Jobs said thinking that a great idea is 90% of the work is a mental disease. There are thousands of factors that go into making an product and “it never turns out how it starts.”

As it stands, truly driverless trucks are a long way off. The technology might soon be here, but its applications will be limited for quite a while, probably for decades.

Thank you for reading this.

 

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