Similar to how auto-steer has allowed farmers to focus on other tasks rather than steering while crawling up or down a field, a new California company is testing self-driving semis to make trucking safer and allow drivers to do something else between exits on the interstate.
Otto, which announced its existence last week, was founded by a group of ex-Google engineers, including one who developed Google’s first self-driving car. While Daimler and other companies are working on new semi-autonomous trucks, Otto has been testing retro-fitted self-driving Volvo trucks and plans to sell sensors and software to give existing rigs on the road auto-pilot capability.
At this point, Otto is focusing only on highway driving.
“There are only 222,000 miles of highway in the US, just 5% of the roads in the country. They’re easier to map and it’s a much more constrained problem to solve than all those city and rural streets. There are no pedestrians or traffic lights but you do drive at high speeds and you do need to see far ahead,” says co-founder and former Google Maps product lead Lior Ron, told Backchannel.com in this article.
It would allow truck drivers to do something else while driving on interstate highways, similar to how auto-steer allows farmers to monitor their equipment, text their agronomist and check RealAg, between turning around at the end of the field.
Highway auto-pilot capabilities might be useful when hauling grain, bales or equipment long distances, but the ability to have a driverless truck pick up a load of wheat from a quarter section accessible only by dirt road and then deliver it to an auger waiting at bin #5 on the farm yard would be much more complicated.
What do you think? Do you see self-driving trucks on the horizon in agriculture? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
Check out this article on Backchannel.com for more: The Man Who Built Google’s First Self-Driving Car Is Now a Trucker