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Autonomous focus in US

Autonomous focus in US

NZ Truck & Driver News

 September 2020   

There’s a renewed focus on autonomous trucks in the United States, with self-driving tech company Waymo and industry heavyweight Freightliner both launching new highway test programmes.

Waymo says that it’s putting a test fleet of Peterbilt 579 tractor units to work around Dallas and Houston – two of the biggest freight hubs in the US.

On their first time on a route, they’ll be driven manually by their so-called driver “attendants” – who hold commercial driver licences.

But thereafter the Waymo Driver autonomous software – supported by an array of sensors and cameras fitted to the trucks – will take over.

Waymo says that by operating its systems on the heavily-trafficked Texas highways it will “further understand how other truck and passenger car drivers behave on these routes, and continue to refine the way our Waymo Driver reacts and responds in these busy driving regions.”
The Waymo Driver platform has, it says, already racked-up 32 million kilometres of driving on public roads in more than 25 cities, and the artificial intelligence technology has done another 24 billion kilometres in simulations.

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There’s a renewed focus on autonomous trucks in the United States, with self-driving tech company Waymo and industry heavyweight Freightliner both launching new highway test programmes.
Waymo says that it’s putting a test fleet of Peterbilt 579 tractor units to work around Dallas and Houston – two of the biggest freight hubs in the US.
On their first time on a route, they’ll be driven manually by their so-called driver “attendants” – who hold commercial driver licences.
But thereafter the Waymo Driver autonomous software – supported by an array of sensors and cameras fitted to the trucks – will take over.
Waymo says that by operating its systems on the heavily-trafficked Texas highways it will “further understand how other truck and passenger car drivers behave on these routes, and continue to refine the way our Waymo Driver reacts and responds in these busy driving regions.”
The Waymo Driver platform has, it says, already racked-up 32 million kilometres of driving on public roads in more than 25 cities, and the artificial intelligence technology has done another 24 billion kilometres in simulations.
Via its driver expertise partner Transdev, Waymo is currently hiring truck drivers for its test programme.
The company says its Waymo Driver system, “because it doesn’t get tired or distracted,” will improve safety on the road and will “at some point” also improve utilisation rates compared to human drivers, “who need to take breaks, eat and sleep.” 
Meantime, Daimler Trucks’ Autonomous Technology Group, which formed a partnership a year ago with Torc Robotics – specifically to have “highly-automated” trucks in series production before 2030 – is entering a new phase of testing on public roads.
The highway testing, which restarted in Virginia in June with a new generation of automated driving software, is also backed-up by a new test centre in New Mexico, devoted to autonomous driving. 
Daimler Truck board of management chairman Martin Daum says it remains “fully committed to this collaboration and to focusing on the shared goal of bringing highly automated trucks to series production.”
Torc Robotics CEO Michael Fleming says that “Daimler’s commitment to safety, innovation leadership of truck technology and foundational knowledge of onroad scenarios that truckers encounter has moved our system faster than we could have done alone as a technology firm. 
“By working with the inventor of the truck and number one truck OEM, we are convinced that Level 4 trucks can be commercialised safely, with a strong business case.”
Daimler Trucks North America president and CEO Roger Nielsen says of fully autonomous trucks becoming operational: “We know this will not happen overnight, but with our priority and vision for safer roads and efficiencies for our customers, we are committed to the journey.”
All of Freightliner’s automated test drives require the combination of a safety conductor, overseeing the system, “and a highly-trained safety driver.”
US autonomous tech company Ike Robotics says it is now working with three large trucking operators – and 1000 trucks – in a unique collaboration that pulls together its autonomous technology and their operational knowledge.
Ike says it’s working with operators that are known “early adopters of new technologies” – companies that have invested heavily in digital tools, electrification, and automation in many parts of their businesses.
Thus, says Ike: “We don’t need to build a big fleet or logistics network to get our product into the market – those networks already exist. And we’ve discovered that they have a lot to teach us.”  

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