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Self-driving Trucks Poised to Remake Freight Industry

By March 5, 2017 No Comments

By Steve Rosenbush, Wall Street Journal-

Good morning. There is perhaps no clearer example of how technology is remaking a traditional industry than the ways in which autonomous vehicles are poised to change transportation. While much of the early attention has focused on the autonomous car, the autonomous truck is just as big a deal. The intellectual property dispute between Alphabet Inc.‘ self-driving car business and Uber Technologies Inc. is the subject of headlines. Beyond that, the WSJ’s Tim Higgins explains how a range of startups are targeting an industry that is ripe for change.

“The industry is struggling to find drivers, regulations governing working hours are squeezing profits, and some artificial-intelligence experts believe computer brains can more easily master highways than complicated city streets,” he writes. Embark and fellow startups Starsky Robotics and Drive.ai all emerged in the past week with details about their plans. “The idea seemed novel a year ago when Anthony Levandowski quit as a founder of Google’s self-driving-car project—now known as Waymo at Alphabet—to found Otto, a company focused on self-driving semi-trucks. Major manufacturers such as Daimler AG and Volvo AB had been working on the technology, but Mr. Levandowski brought a Silicon Valley swagger. One of his early stunts was transporting a trailer of Budweiser in Colorado.”

Uber acquired Otto for up to $680 million, and is now the subject of a lawsuit by Waymo. Don’t forget about San Francisco-based Starsky, which has raised $3.75 million, aims to work with freight companies by year-end to test trucks without human occupants on highways in states such as Michigan, Nevada or Florida. In the coming months, the company plans to conduct self-driving tests with humans on board, the WSJ reports. Drive.ai’s founders believe around-town delivery vehicles could be an easier way to introduce the technology. Either way, change is coming to the world of freight.

 

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