Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Transportation

Autonomous Trucking 142

Posted by Soulskill
from the project-optimus dept.
An anonymous reader writes We've heard about all the effort going into self-driving cars, but what about the massive fleet of trucks we use to deliver goods around the country? Well, Mercedes is trying to tackle that problem. They have just demonstrated an autonomous 18-wheeler on the German Autobahn. It's clearly a long-term project; they named it "Future Truck 2025," as an unsubtle reminder that this tech needs a lot of development before it's ready for common use. "Special cameras and multiple radar systems watch the road, the sides of the road, and cars and trucks behind the vehicle. Future Truck is also envisioned to communicate with other vehicles and connect to growing sources of online information as Big Data balloons on the road. ... Many of the component parts to put a vehicle like this into production are already available in trucks on the market: Systems that help drivers keep their distance from other drivers, active braking assistance, guidance and mapping systems, and fine-tuned cruise control and tons of other hi-tech tchotchke."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Autonomous Trucking

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward

    But I cant wait to see the rules list to replace years of pull 80,000 LBS over Mountains in the snow.
    And I cant wait to see the computer chain up.

    • by hawguy (1600213) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @10:37AM (#47388417)

      But I cant wait to see the rules list to replace years of pull 80,000 LBS over Mountains in the snow.
      And I cant wait to see the computer chain up.

      The automatic trucks can be stopped miles away from the snow, patiently waiting for many hours without getting tired or running into problems with rules about allowed hours behind the wheel. Then when conditions are better, the automated trucks can form a train behind the automated snowplow/salt truck and trudge through the roads at 10mph for hours while remaining 100% vigilant at monitoring road conditions and the truck's reaction to the road -- to the point where any slippage of any wheel on the truck or trailer can be detected and compensated for. A professional driver might be able to do better in some conditions after a good night's sleep, but not when he's already exhausted from spending hours sitting in the truck waiting for the roads to be open, then hours more trudging along slowly in the snow.

      For chains, many roads that have chain restrictions (at least in California) already have chain installers waiting on snowy days to help motorists that don't know want (or don't know how) to chain up their own car -- these same crews could be used to chain up trucks.

      Or automatic chains [onspot.com] can be used.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Or automatic chains can be used.

        Holy crap, that's about the simplest thing that does something slick like that I've ever seen. And if you get on eBay you get many fat pictures that show you precisely how they're put together.

      • by icebike (68054)

        Then when conditions are better, the automated trucks can form a train behind the automated snowplow

        Here's a better Idea: Drive those trucks to a REAL TRAIN depot and get them off our roads.

        The amount of long haul that is done by trucks in this country is ridiculous, dangerous, and unsustainable. Our roads are being beaten to dust by an industry that doesn't pay taxes at a rate anywhere near sufficient to cover the damage it causes [vabike.org].

        We should be mandating rapid train routes for any transport distance greater than 500 miles, with computerized and mostly automated loading and unloading facilities instead

        • That's great, right up to the point where you don't have the train routes and capacity to handle the loads we currently carry. I can promise you that if it was cheaper to send cargo by train, we would already do it. There is already too much train traffic on the rails, especially on oil/coal routes and along the high-traffic metro corridors.

          Given the cost of time and the cost of last mile (or in many cases, the cost of the last 200-500 miles), and the cost to install new track, trucking will be with us for

          • by icebike (68054)

            We do have the train routes, railroads have been rail-banking surpluss rail lines for years because truck traffic
            took all the loads. But in most cases the rail is still in place, and bringing it up to standards is cheaper
            than rebuilding all of our freeways every 5 years just to keep truck drivers employed.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Automatically chaining up is trivial. My friend's F-350 has OnSpot chains that chain and de-chain the tires with a flick of a switch. A computer doing this isn't hard.

      Of course, computers will be more useful in the snow than a person. They can communicate with nearby vehicles to check status, and if there is a white-out, can shut down, resuming the trip when conditions are passable. People doing that results in parties... Donner parties.

    • Well, too bad you didn't RTFA - and that the summary forgot to mention that the truck still has a driver, just that he doesn't do much for most of the drive.
  • Anyone with knowledge of the automotive industry knows that basically every large OEM is onto the same thing:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/l... [independent.co.uk]
    http://www.greenfleeteurope.co... [greenfleeteurope.com]
    (etc.)
  • It seems to me that if you were to forgo the complexity of automated driving on the byways, highway-only algorithms and equipment would be much easier to deploy. If I owned a shipping company, either locating my endpoints near a major highway or having a human driver take over at waypoints located near a major highway would still make this option extremely advantageous. I've said for a long time that I would much rather be driving next to an automated vehicle that only experiences an "incidents" once every
    • I've said for a long time that I would much rather be driving next to an automated vehicle that only experiences an "incidents" once every 100,000 miles or so

      I'm a trucker. I've driven over 2 million miles accident free. Many truckers have. An incident every 100,000 miles would be one a year for me and at that rate I'd hand in my license.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    id expect that trucks, especially out west would be susceptable to hijacks. thieves might be more inclined to try if there is no witness at the location and police response times would be long.

  • by Bruha (412869) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @10:12AM (#47388289) Homepage Journal

    That would replace millions of drivers where are they going to find employment?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Trucks represent a more logical application of autonomous driving. Three reasons that come to mind right off the bat - 1- Big trucks represent a significant capital investment, therefore incorporating self driving tech represents a lower percentage cost increase. 2- Big potential to actually save money for the trucking fleet. Payback time frame may be fairly short. 3 - Potential to reduce or eliminate driver fatigue issues. About a half dozen other good reasons are popping into my head.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why not just start with self driving trains. It would be a whole lot simpler for much the same result.

    • Because, in the USA especially, lots of Federal government money has been spent connecting the major population centres with roads. Very little has been spent on the rail infrastructure. If you can make it work on roads, then you can take advantage of all of the existing infrastructure cheaply.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It is called 'The Train'. Why send a driver on 1000+mile trips when you can put the load on a train and collect it at the other end and have a short journey fro mthe railhead to the final destination.
    The distance to railheads in some parts of the US might be a problem but in Europe this might not be.

    There was a cartoon in a paper many years ago where a collection of self driving cars were assembled into a 'train'. The Doh moment made me laugh.

    • There was a cartoon in a paper many years ago where a collection of self driving cars were assembled into a 'train'. The Doh moment made me laugh.

      The advantage of the cars in this model is that they speed up unloading. Go and watch a freight train being unloaded some time, it's a massive endeavour. Now imagine if each of the trucks could just drive off along the roads on its own as soon as the train arrived at its destination.

      • .....

        The advantage of the cars in this model is that they speed up unloading. Go and watch a freight train being unloaded some time, it's a massive endeavour. Now imagine if each of the trucks could just drive off along the roads on its own as soon as the train arrived at its destination.

        Consider extensive automation of the loading and contrast with the extensive automation and risks of
        automated trucking.

        Scheduling driver pickup and routing is the nut none have cracked yet.

      • by Smauler (915644)

        I used to drive a route, Bury St Edmunds, Kettering, Winchester, then back to Bury St Edmunds every day (along with London on thursdays). It was in a big artic. At the first stop, I was unloaded and reloaded (with tyres), at the second I changed trailers. 340 miles every day, and I was always within tacho law. (for Americans, drivers in the EU are strictly regulated on the hours they can work(

        I don't know what you're suggesting as a replacement for this kind of system.

        The warehouse in Bury st Edmunds is

  • If they make the truckers redundant then we might as well go back to rail for most of our overland transport. Its much more effificient and can ber electified, so a lot less CO2 produced.

    The main reason that trucks replaced rail was because of the teamsters.

    • by RichMan (8097)

      Rail does not go to the final point of delivery. Even with rail you have to move it to truck for final delivery. The cost of moving from rail to truck needs to come down a lot. Some of this is done with container shipping. Still in most cases it is easier to centrally load a truck have it driver over a couple of states then do local deliveries to many places. You do this with many trucks from a central warehouse. The cost these days is in loading, unloading and managing what is in the shipment.

    • by overshoot (39700)

      The main reason that trucks replaced rail was because of the

      .. enormous subsidy that the USA put into highways starting in the 1950s. It was ostensibly to create a transportation system that would not fold up following a nuclear attack, but like all such things it took on a life of its own.

  • Use railroads instead. It's much easier to automate. Mixing human operators and autonomous machines on the highways doesn't sound too palatable.

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      we're already doing that, I live near the rail hub of the USA and see huge trains full of truck trailers daily.

  • injecting bogus congestion information into the network.
  • In that are they going to make the trucks self loading as well?, I don't know about the US but you see quite a few trucks which have cranes and fork lift trucks attached to the back or a powered tail lift. They get the driver to operate these things as not all places have truck height unloading bays or fork lift trucks either. Heh I remember unloading a refrigerated truck with another bloke with a fork lift dolly and a powered tail gate, it took forever to unload.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      are they going to make the trucks self loading as well?,

      Well, we do have the technology. We could have pallets with big fat QR codes slapped on the side (and by "big fat" I mean three inches or so) and robotic pallet jacks unloading the trucks, or trailers with floors that would shove pallets out the back of the truck automatically, and trucks loaded in proper order for that to make sense. For stuff that's delivered by the truckload, a whole trailer or shipping container could be unloaded and just dropped off to be dealt with by someone other than the trucker en

      • Well, we do have the technology. We could have pallets with big fat QR codes slapped on the side (and by "big fat" I mean three inches or so) and robotic pallet jacks unloading the trucks, or trailers with floors that would shove pallets out the back of the truck automatically, and trucks loaded in proper order for that to make sense. For stuff that's delivered by the truckload, a whole trailer or shipping container could be unloaded and just dropped off to be dealt with by someone other than the trucker entirely.

        Lots of loads can't be palletised. There would also have to be massive investment by the delivery locations as well.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Lots of loads can't be palletised.

          Sure, big stuff. Either a trailer gets dropped off for a time, a massive pallet is invented, or a standard for crane attachment is developed.

  • Prepare Now (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jim Sadler (3430529) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @10:45AM (#47388451)
    Yes, autonomous drivers are a wonderful invention but no one is focusing on the social changes that must take place. We are eliminating employment at an ever increasing pace. If we fail to make provisions for keeping people above water without regard to whether they work or not we are going to bring down our society into the worst collapse of all times. If we generate poverty we will generate rebellion and chaos. Meanwhile we have people chained to dogmas who are in denial about what is occurring. And here we have China 3D printing ten homes in a day with one fairly small machine. The trades are about to take a really hard hit.
    • by 1369IC (935113)
      I keep bringing this up to my "you can get a job if you want one" friends and their eyes glaze over. It's inevitable, and at the same time unthinkable. Even my more liberal friends respond with the more of the same of what they think we should be doing now. The only person who seems to understand is a brother of mine who believes the "elites are going to depopulate the world" theory. I think guaranteed income is a start, and cutting the hours in a work week is a good step. But in this climate (in the U.S.)
    • by iroll (717924)

      Yes, clearly we must protect obsolete industries at any cost.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's not about protecting the obsolete industries, because the transition will be inevitable. But we really must begin preparing the public safety net, because the "everyone that wants a job can find one" idea is going to go away, the more we can automate the low-skill work. We can college educate more and more people, we can teach them to be designers and engineers and scientists, but there are still going to be more and more people that just can't find a place. And we are going to have to be prepared, as

  • by rabbin (2700077) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @10:46AM (#47388455)
    There are apparently over 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the US--that's over 1 out of every 100 Americans (see here http://www.truckinfo.net/truck... [truckinfo.net] ) . And while I assume this technology will initially support the driver rather than substitute them, eventually they *will* be substituted.

    Now, I am not saying that I am against this technology or the vast multitude of other technologies that are replacing formerly human work--I think technology is a great thing which, used properly, can make life dramatically more enjoyable. However, I don't believe man at the individual level is infinitely adaptable to system that requires he/she hold an economic worth in order to survive (and live a good life) when technology is increasingly rendering nature's several billion year old creations uncompetitive. Our economic system as it currently is will leave these people unable to support themselves, and then you have poverty, crime, and death (and since I have empathy and I am not a sociopath, I think this needs to be avoided...)

    Some US conservatives I know claim that this will not happen and man is infinitely adaptable as an individual (and a very small handful of others say the poverty, crime, and death is a good solution). Some US liberals I know claim that we should just drop technology altogether and return to a "simpler time." All three of these "solutions" are incredibly stupid, so fortunately most respond with "I don't know." I personally look forward to a future where both technology and an "innate human worth" (rather than a solely "economic worth") can be embraced, but that inevitably means many people won't be working or will be working very little.

    But if the many "trust fund baby"/never-had-to-work-a-day-in-their-lives people that are peppered about my area are any indication of what this future will be like, then it doesn't sound so bad: writing poetry or doing other forms of artwork all day, running very small (and unprofitable) "hobby farms," socializing all day, etc etc (no, they didn't turn to drugs or other antisocial activities because there was "nothing to do"...that stuff stems from poverty, not unemployment)
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      There are apparently over 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the US--that's over 1 out of every 100 Americans

      holy shit. 1% of us wasting our lives doing a job that a train could do at least 50% of the time. land of the free, indeed.

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      deadliest job in USA, over 12% of all work related deaths are of truckers and that usually involving cars. good riddance to people killer

      all those lamp lighters had to find another job too, such is progress.

  • Rail? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bradley13 (1118935) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @10:52AM (#47388483) Homepage

    What I do not understand about Germany - indeed this whole region of Europe (I'm in Switzerland) is this: We have excellent rail systems, why not put long-distance cargo on the trains? There are various initiatives to do exactly this, but they meet with a wide range of passive and active resistance. Fact is, given the existing rail system, using trucks for long-distance freight makes no sense at all.

    One of the sources of resistance are the truck drivers, but their profession is doomed anyway for long distance transport. The automated trucks are a logical extension of automated vehicles - heck, they may happen before cars. But putting an individual engine on every container is anything but efficient - maybe this will actually be the impetus for getting the stuff on the rails...

    • by CRCulver (715279)

      There are still places in Europe where trucks are an important form of transporting goods. For example, the route from Poland up the Baltic countries is badly served by rail, so every day there are many hundreds of trucks on the Via Baltica. A lot of trade between Turkey and the Balkans also proceeds along routes that are better served by trucks than rail.

      • You would probably need additional infrastructure to move goods on a large scale by rail. Right now trucks go directly from pick up location to drop-off location. With rail that likely wouldn't be possible. So you would either need trucks to get goods on and off the train, doubling the number of times items must be loaded/unloaded, or you need to move goods processing depots next to the tracks or send track to depots. Furthermore, if rail is adopted on a large scale as a distribution network then you will l
      • by Anonymous Coward

        That second part is not true. Bulgaria (which is where the Turkish drivers have to go through) have an excellent rail system, even for freight. Thing is.. Turkish drivers and their unions do not want to pay. Instead they cause incidents daily, run cars off the road, and kill people, violate required rest periods etc...

        • Re:Rail? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Saturday July 05, 2014 @11:42AM (#47388715) Homepage

          When I said "the Balkans", I was thinking about countries after Bulgaria. Turkey does a lot of trade with Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia, but rail in that area is usually less efficient than truck.

          Turkish drivers and their unions do not want to pay. Instead they cause incidents daily, run cars off the road, and kill people, violate required rest periods etc...

          Stereotyping everyone on the basis of a minority of bad apples isn't fair. I live in Romania, and I hitchhike across Bulgaria to Turkey (or go to Serbia first and then cross Bulgaria to Turkey) a couple of times every year, and I can't say that my Turkish drivers have been worse than anyone else. They've all obeyed the tachograph and stop when they are required to (which can be frustrating for a hitchhiker who wants to keep moving), and in the summer when all trucks must stop during the day so as to not damage the hot, soft asphalt, they pull into one of their innumerable little roadside Turkish cafés that remind me of merchant colonies of old.

    • As the previous AC post alluded, the particular requirements of freight and passenger transport don't mix well. The United States moves a massive amount of freight by rail, with very few long-distance rail lines being totally dedicated to passenger transport. Unfortunately, the unique requirements for passenger and freight traffic don't mix well.

      Freight trains travel at lower speeds than the ideal passenger train, and acceleration and deceleration is extremely slow and inefficient. In the USA, the rail line

    • What I do not understand about Germany - indeed this whole region of Europe (I'm in Switzerland) is this: We have excellent rail systems, why not put long-distance cargo on the trains? There are various initiatives to do exactly this, but they meet with a wide range of passive and active resistance. Fact is, given the existing rail system, using trucks for long-distance freight makes no sense at all.

      Most major rail lines in Western Europe are running at full capacity.

  • ...have been around for years. I know they don't generally share the road (except with hapless interlopers who have to get out of the way) but there's still been much knowledge gleaned there. So the 'science' is already eay more advanced than with autonomous cars, for example.

  • by 1369IC (935113) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @11:28AM (#47388643)
    The Army has conducted several successful tests of this. Video of one is here [youtube.com].
  • Finally an excuse to re-make the terrible movie Maximum Overdrive. If you're one of the 99% of the population that's never heard of it, it's a movie where the trucks go crazy, drive themselves, and try to kill all of humanity. An interesting concept, but horribly executed. Based on a book by Stephen King, some nut let him direct it.

  • They don't need better tech in the trucks, all they need to do is have truck only roads. Really in some areas it would be about time. There are plenty of old rail lines that would be perfect for truck only routes that could have stupid sized land train trucks running on them.
  • Has nobody at Mercedes considered the collateral damage their "innovation" will cause? Do they not realize what this will do to the truck stop blowjob market?

    Will somebody *please* think of the Lizards?

    p.s.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eP7sSk3rwm0 [youtube.com]

  • We in the USA better get EU like healthcare by then or the this automation will lead to lot's of people being out of work and in some places having to goto jail / prison just to have a doctor.

  • ...because of the lack of concern an automaton has with penis size. In those long upgrades where trucks are grinding slowly up the hill, we will no longer have to sit behind that 20 mph truck ignoring the 'Trucks use right lane' signage in vainly attempting to get past the 19.5 mph truck operating in the designated lane.

  • Mercedes should be investing in rail freight infrastructure and technology that would keep heavy vehicles off our roads. Fat chance though as the don't sell railway cars. If we revived rail freight at the expense of heavy trucks, the jobs gained would offset those lost. Plus, air pollution, and roadway maintenance and congestion would drastically reduce.

"You need tender loving care once a week - so that I can slap you into shape." - Ellyn Mustard

Working...