Trucking is big business, employing 3.5 million drivers, travelling 433 billion miles and delivering 70 percent of all freight transported in the states. Much of that driving is on the Interstate Highway System, where the trips can be very long and boring. It is tedious work and doesn’t pay all that well (the average wage being $ 32,000 per annum) so there is a serious shortage of drivers. It can be dangerous; according to Alex Davies in Wired, 400,000 trucks are involved in crashes each year, killing about 4,000 people. That’s where Otto comes in. The Uber-owned company developed hardware and software that makes trucks totally autonomous on the highway, adding 3 LIDAR laser systems, RADARs and cameras. The system is designed for the open road; On the Otto site they explain: Our self-driving trucks make highways safer. Otto hardware and software is tuned for the consistent patterns and easy to predict road conditions of highway driving. Sensors are installed high atop existing trucks, offering vehicles an unobstructed view of the road ahead. With highways making up only 5% of U.S. roads, we can focus our testing on this specific set of trucking routes critical for the American economy. Alex quotes Otto’s co-founder Lior Ron on how it will change the trucking industry:
Ron says he can make trucking a local profession. “You can imagine a future where those trucks are essentially a virtual train on a software rail, on the highway,” he says. He sees a day when trucks do their thing on the interstate, then stop at designated depots where humans drive the last few miles into town. Drivers, in effect, become harbor pilots, bringing the ship to port.
Read More: TreeHugger