Autonomous truck carts 40,000 lb of butter coast to coast in the US
In an illustration of how far self-driving vehicles have come, an autonomous articulated lorry recently drove a refrigerated load of 40,000 lb (18,100 kg) of butter 2,800 mi (4,500 km) across the continental United States. Equipped with a driving technology package by Plus.ai, the truck and its cargo from the Land O' Lakes company made a hub-to-hub journey from Tulare, California to Quakertown, Pennsylvania.
Self-driving technology has been steadily developing for a number of years, but there are more challenges than just ones of engineering and software. There's also the fact that such machines must operate in the messy world of everyday life with all the baggage and complications that have built up over generations.
A case in point is goods hauling in the United States. America isn't just a large place, it's a collection of 50 semi-autonomous states with widely varying laws, geography, and climate, which means that a cross-country trip by road can still be something of an adventure, as anyone who's driven through South Dakota in the middle of winter can attest. That's a lot for a machine to adapt to.
For the recent demonstration, the hauler was equipped with Plus.ai’s package, which includes multimodal sensor fusion, deep learning visual algorithms, and Simultaneous Location And Mapping (SLAM) technologies. These helped guide the vehicle during its passage along United States interstate highways 15 and 70.
During the trip, the autonomous systems did most of the driving, though there was a safety driver and a safety engineer aboard at all times with the former taking over the controls as needed, as is required by law. The journey took the truck through a variety of terrains and weather conditions as it passed through the Rocky Mountains, the plains of Kansas, and along roads in snow and rain over a three-day period.
"This cross-country freight run with Land O’Lakes shows the safety, efficiency, and maturity of our autonomous trucks, which are already delivering freight for other partners several days a week," says Shawn Kerrigan, COO and co-founder of Plus.ai. "Continued advances in our autonomous trucks will make it possible for these quick cross-country runs to be the norm in the future. We are excited to demonstrate what our technology can already achieve today while meeting rigorous autonomous driving safety and food transportation compliance standards."
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The cheaper the transportation costs are, the lower the prices of the goods will be, plus, you don't have to worry about men and women making stupid decisions like how fast one can go, when to put the chains on, driving under the influence of foreign chemicals in their body, anger issues, etc ad infinitum.
These so-called "greenhouse gasses", in case people don't stop to think about this, we build greenhouses for a REASON!! It's because they are good for plants and help them to grow faster than they would out in free air. CO2 is either generated in them via yeast colonies or introducing the gas from tanks because the green plants inside use CO2 as a part of their metabolic process!! When people are very ill, they get put into an Oxygen tent or a mask is put over their nose so they can breathe pure Oxygen from a tank or Oxygen concentrator because it's good therapy for them! If someone can live off of everything that they grow on their own land and like wearing animal pelts or sack cloth, I'm totally fine with all of that. But please don't think that you can force me or shame me into doing it too.
The rig in the photos may not have been the one actually used for the test, or its reefer unit might be built into the box, not an add on. Who knows, maybe the compressor was driven off of a wheel or the truck engine? But that kind of thinking is a bit out of the box for most.
As the front of the trailer does not have a conventional refrigeration unit readily apparent, it may have been a bottom-mount unit hidden behind the aero fairings. Since butter has to remain only cold and not frozen, a smaller refer unit could be used.
The article clearly states that the trip took 3 days. Taking fuel/food stops into account and the time limits that drivers can log every day, 3 days seems like a reasonable time for a cross country journey.
The article clearly states "there was a safety driver and a safety engineer aboard at all times with the former taking over the controls as needed, as is required by law". The author alludes to the fact that laws are different in every state concerning autonomous vehicles. This would also be a test of the system to verify that it knows where it is and that when moving from one state to another, its behavior would comply with current laws.
Much can be learned when reading the entire article and not stopping at the headline, eh?
What I wonder is how many people were involved with the trip. Usually, one driver is all that's required, but how many people did this take to be successful? I would bet at least half a dozen, and this is for one truck.
How well does this entire concept scale up to a fleet of trucks? Maybe I'm missing something, but I would think the trucking company will need to track every movement of these devices, if only for evidence to win in the inevitable lawsuits from accidents.