On 60 Minutes last night they reported on what is claimed to be the first test of an unmanned 18-wheeler on a public highway. This was in Florida. Amazing. The 9.4 mile test was performed by Starsky Robotics and it shocked the four long distance truck drivers that 60 minutes was interviewing. None of us had heard about this which makes me wonder if that has been intentional.
In any case it was impressive, however it appeared to me that there was a remote driver who did control the vehicle when the semi was not on the highway. 60 Minutes did not mention this which is a key stumbling block to the full scale implementation of this technology. Namely, how to get the big rig on and off the highway.
However, after a little research on the Starsky Robotics website it looks like I was right.
“Trucking is the backbone of the American economy, moving 70% of all freight. Truck drivers risk their lives spending months away from their family to keep the American economy moving.
We’re working to make trucks autonomous on the highway and remote controlled by drivers for the first and last mile. Our trucks will make roads safer while giving drivers meaningful work close to their homes and families.”
Now that is very interesting. Somehow I doubt that the hundreds of thousands of jobs that will potentially be lost to unmanned semi’s will be made up by the need for remote drivers. Ten minutes versus days? The math just does not work out.
There was also another minor detail that was not addressed – the need to refuel on the route. The remote driver can get the rig to the pump I suppose, but who is going to pump the fuel? I guess we could go back to having attendants. Maybe the drivers who lose their jobs could find one pumping diesel.
In December of last year Starsky announced they were downsizing due to depressed market conditions.
Click here for the full 60 Minutes segment.
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