Uber and Starsky Robotics announce breakthroughs in self-driving trucks

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | Thursday, March 08, 2018

While lawmakers try to figure out what to do with commercial motor vehicles in autonomous technology legislation, Uber and Starsky Robotics have taken the wheel and moved on. Uber has recently been operating self-driving trucks in Arizona, while Starsky Robotics just announced a completely driverless truck making a trip in Florida.

On Tuesday, San Francisco-based Uber Technologies announced its operations in Arizona using a self-driving truck. In a YouTube video, Uber shows a 24-year trucking veteran from Los Angeles, Mark, on his way to pick up freight in Topock, Ariz., he booked using Uber Freight.

A self-driving Uber truck operated by “Larry” meets Mark at Topock. This is where Mark and Larry exchange trailers. Mark takes off to Los Angeles with his new load, while Larry heads east for another long haul.


Uber has been hauling cargo in Arizona with the self-driving trucks for a few months now. As the video suggests, Uber said that a licensed truck driver is behind the wheel at all times in the event an emergency takeover is needed. However, Uber has acknowledged that the end goal is to eliminate the driver altogether.

Not to be outdone, Starsky Robotics, also based in San Francisco, announced on Thursday that it has successfully completed a fully unmanned test in Hendry County, Fla. In a video, Starsky Robotics CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher claims it is the first ever unmanned test of a self-driving commercial truck. The time-lapsed video shows the bobtail truck driving 7 miles with no one inside.



In a separate video, Seltz-Axmacher claims very few truck drivers make it five years without being in an accident, stating trucking is the least safe job in America. Seltz-Axmacher tells a sob story of a trucker who saw his daughter only one day a month and got a divorce, suggesting how very few people want to drive a truck for a month at a time.

“If the hard thing about trucking is getting a person in the truck, what if you didn’t require that?” Seltz-Axmacher says.

It is worth noting that Starsky Robotics’ latest test was done using a bobtail truck. Previously, Starsky Robotics finished a 68-mile trip with a trailer. However, in that test, a human driver was present in the vehicle, even though the driver was never needed during the trip.

 

 

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