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Autonomous Trucking 142

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."
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Autonomous Trucking

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  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @11:37AM (#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 [] can be used.

  • by rabbin ( 2700077 ) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @11:46AM (#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 [] ) . 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)
  • Rail? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @11:52AM (#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 Smauler ( 915644 ) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @08:13PM (#47390657)

    As a truck driver, I think your 99% is a little high. Train drivers, for example, do not have to deal with almost all the situational problems that truck drivers do, and their profession is only just starting to become autonomous, and only in a few limited cases.

    I agree it is probably the future of cargo transport... but if we're using automated cargo transport, I think we could come up with a better solution than just big automaton trucks on the road.

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban