As you might expect, the charge toward a world of autonomous trucks is being led by major manufacturers like Daimler and Volvo. An embryonic startup called Otto, however, is developing technology that can be retrofitted to existing trucks so that they too can drive themselves.
Otto was only founded in January, but it already has 40 employees, including alumni from the likes of Google, Apple and Tesla. The company is based upon the belief that self-driving technology will result in more viable, efficient and safer transportation and it says it hopes to bring those benefits to goods and services transportation.
To do that, it is developing what it calls a self-driving kit for long-haul trucks. The kit comprises sensors, vehicle hardware and self-driving software, all of which is designed to be installed on normal, manually driven trucks. The camera, radar and laser sensors are located on top of the truck and these feed data to in-truck software that makes real-time driving decisions.
Little else in the way of information about how the system works has been released by Otto. There is reference to robotics on its website, which will presumably be used for carrying out the steering and speed control instructions issued by the software, but where and how the requisite hardware is fitted remains unclear.
Otto says it expects a driver in one of its trucks to "play more of a supervisory role" and that this will result in the ability for more miles to be driven, in safer roads and in greater levels of productivity. The cost of the self-driving kit has not yet been finalized as it is still being tested, but the firm says it is likely to be a fraction of the US$100,000 - $200,000 cost of buying a commercial truck.
The video below shows one of Otto's trucks on the road.
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