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Autonomous Trucking

Soulskill posted about 2 months ago | from the project-optimus dept.

Transportation 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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what's in a name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388161)

Or to keep existing truckers from complaining too loudly.

Re:what's in a name (1)

fisted (2295862) | about 2 months ago | (#47388265)

"In 2025, they'll be promoted to "transport managers."

Re:what's in a name (1)

Noughmad (1044096) | about 2 months ago | (#47389269)

"In 2025, they'll be promoted to "transport managers."

And then, around 2030, to "route supervisors".

Re:what's in a name (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 2 months ago | (#47389983)

"In 2025, they'll be promoted to "transport managers."

They'll be demoted to 'unpaid auxiliary worker' or ' on a loooong unpaid break' during the time the autopilot is active.

1.8 million drivers will lose their job. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388169)

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.

Re:1.8 million drivers will lose their job. (4, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:1.8 million drivers will lose their job. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47388731)

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.

dur, edit (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47388741)

s/eBay/Youtube/

You know, $BIGSITE

Re:1.8 million drivers will lose their job. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47389195)

I had this topic brought up last week with a retired trucker. Basically the weather factor will NEVER EVER allow for autonomous trucking. If you want autonomous goods transport, you're better off in investing in the rail system by having grade-separated high speed freight lines and covering the freight lines to prevent spills/hobos/collisions with wildlife/weather. VERY VERY expensive, but if it's ever done, that will eliminate all the long-haul routes, and be far safer/cheaper to operate than trucks for all but flat desert geography.

Nobody would use a truck that has to idle to let weather pass, especially when snow may mean several days of road closures the farther away from civilization it is.

What is true however is that a truck can be made a thousand times safer by taking some of the control away from the driver and letting the truck decide what gear to use on steep grades, and clearance underneath obstacles/bridges/tunnels, and safe speeds to operate at. A fully automated truck going from Toronto to Vancouver or Dallas to New York will simply be unable to deal with human factors (eg other drivers), accidents, weather, washed out roads, construction, toll booths, wild life, hitchhikers/hijackers, etc.

But the important thing was dealing with tire chains. Basically the trucker friend goes "Nobody who can't lift 100lbs can be a trucker because the second you need to chain up, you're dead."

Re:1.8 million drivers will lose their job. (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 2 months ago | (#47389241)

Nonsense, not a barrier to automated trucking at all.

Automated rucks can be used in the 99% of cases where this issue doesn't apply. And consider the possibilty of automated 24x7 plowing, salting and snow removal trucks, no need for human crew that gets tired.

this is definitely the future of cargo transport, including automated freight trains

Re:1.8 million drivers will lose their job. (1)

icebike (68054) | about 2 months ago | (#47389845)

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 of trying to smarten up every truck on the road.

Re:1.8 million drivers will lose their job. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388441)

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.

Re:1.8 million drivers will lose their job. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47390053)

I'd say that's where a minimum wage rider comes in, I drove a semi for a long time and I just don't see this happening by 2025. It's possible, but driving a semi loading down with a 53' trailer is going to be tricky for a computer. Dealing with axle weight is a pain in the ass and most places do not have scales meaning you have to go find a truckstop and slide your tandems. A lot of areas just aren't made for trucking, yet we get stuck in them anyways having to improvise. I know one thing if you're driving a semi you know shit is going to get screwed up eventually, especially in tight city areas, it happens. It will be interesting to see it backing up with 4 inches on each side "a damn headache" at midnight inside of a damn mountain in Missouri. Yup, my first load, I tore my trailer door off inside that damn mountain.

Thank you for tchotchke. It was like a hand grena (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388205)

Thank you for tchotchke. It was like a hand grenade at the end of a conga line

Maximum Overdrive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388217)

Highway Only to Speed Deployment (1)

OnTheEdge (136784) | about 2 months ago | (#47388245)

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 100,000 miles or so, verses next to my fellow humans who -- these days -- seem to experience "incidents" every few miles.

Re:Highway Only to Speed Deployment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388315)

A trucker who experienced an incidence every 100,000 miles or so would be out of trucking in less than 6 months... or about 300,000 miles.

Most truckers have driven -millions- of miles incident free.

Re:Highway Only to Speed Deployment (2, Informative)

OzPeter (195038) | about 2 months ago | (#47388463)

A trucker who experienced an incidence every 100,000 miles or so would be out of trucking in less than 6 months... or about 300,000 miles.

Most truckers have driven -millions- of miles incident free.

Lets see .. what did I experience in less than 1 hour of driving down an interstate last week?

1. Multiple trucks rapidly changing lanes, in traffic, without indicating because the truck ahead of them was doing maybe 5 mph slower than they wanted to be, and they was "just" enough room between cars in the next lane over. (And I have experienced this in heavy rain just as I was about to pass truck)

2. Multiple trucks attempting to pass other trucks, but totally underestimating the power they have and causing rolling roadblocks along the interstate at speeds well under the speed limit.

3. Multiple trucks weaving almost off the road at alarming rates for no obvious reason (I can only assume the driver was reaching for something in his/her cab - alternatively they were not 100% awake)

4. Multiple trucks tailgating cars.

Yeah .. none of these were actual "incidents", but they are indicative of truck drivers not having an understanding/respect for the rigs that they are driving, and foretell possible future incidents. Things would be a lot nicer on the interstates if all of the above were eliminated.

Hmm maybe we could sync multiple trucks together, and put them on a special road all of their own. That would eliminate all of the above issues. We could give them some snazzy name .. maybe "Trains" of trucks!

Re:Highway Only to Speed Deployment (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47388697)

Yeah .. none of these were actual "incidents",

They're all moving violations with associated penalties if prosecuted. They could all reasonably be considered "incidents". The only thing that prevented them from becoming collisions was probably defensive driving on the part of others.

Re:Highway Only to Speed Deployment (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 months ago | (#47388641)

A trucker who experienced an incidence every 100,000 miles or so would be out of trucking in less than 6 months... or about 300,000 miles.

A trucker driving 60 mph 24/7 would not drive 300k miles in six months.

Re:Highway Only to Speed Deployment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47390353)

Obvious answer: truckers must average 70mph, regardless of laws.

Re:Highway Only to Speed Deployment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388351)

What I want to know is how autonomous car developers expect these "multiple radar systems" to still work once every other car on the road has them, too. Interference, yo.

Re:Highway Only to Speed Deployment (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 2 months ago | (#47388471)

Lidar is typically used in situations where you have this kind of interference, but the solution is conceptually pretty simple. You tune the detectors to a specific wavelength and you vary that wavelength between devices. You can typically vary the wavelength in software, so if you detect a lot of interference then you just hop to another frequency. If someone is intentionally blanketing your entire band, then it's not really any different from someone shining a floodlight in the eyes of human drivers - you just point them out to the police.

Re:Highway Only to Speed Deployment (1)

overshoot (39700) | about 2 months ago | (#47388557)

First off, the ping rate for auto traffic is an enormous number of pulse durations or return times -- the radar will ignore returns coming back more than a couple of microseconds after it sends its last ping, and only needs to ping every few tens of milliseconds. That's a window of less than 0.1%.

If a car detects a return in a "forbidden" time slot, it can just switch to not using that frequency. Or use the kind of random backoff that Ethernet has been using now for forty years.

And that's just two solutions.

Re:Highway Only to Speed Deployment (3)

Computershack (1143409) | about 2 months ago | (#47389055)

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.

Re: Highway Only to Speed Deployment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47389321)

First, thank you for your commitment to safe driving.

That said, as others have pointed out, incident != accident. Shitty driving doesn't always result in accidents (fortunately).

Unions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388251)

I hate to say this, but in the USA wouldn't the Teamsters union prevent this from occurring?

It will be fun watching a HUGE union fight Industry lobbyists in the USA oligarchy.

truck hijacking (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388255)

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.

Re:truck hijacking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388435)

This. Most people have an innate sense of value for humankind, but property is a cultural thing. If there's tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property rolling through an empty road, and nobody gets hurt if you stop the vehicle carrying it... people are going to stop the vehicle carrying it. Why wouldn't they?

Re:truck hijacking (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 2 months ago | (#47389039)

If they don't have humans involved, they will still probably have quite a bit of sensory output, and most likely, some form of communications with their headquarters. The amount of money involved would easily justify the expenditures for a nice monitoring system, and the cargo might not even be readily accessible to unauthorized humans.

Re:truck hijacking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47389183)

And it'll be easier to hijack them given that they are automated and likely programmed to behave in certain failsafe ways.

Put an obstacle in front of them and they will stop. No human driver who might decide to ram through or take evasive action.

Not really that big a threat to US truckers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388285)

I doubt they'll be able to get them to be able to back themselves into weird or tight spots any time soon, even if they can get them to drive on the highway.

Sure, it'd be great for automating those mindless 1000+ mile trips, but most of those runs have already moved to intermodal rail anyway.

Where will this truckers work? (2)

Bruha (412869) | about 2 months ago | (#47388289)

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

Re:Where will this truckers work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388355)

You fool - they will obviously all find work as highly skilled autonomous truck mechanics and programmers!

Re:Where will this truckers work? (4, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 months ago | (#47388473)

It's not just that out-of-work truckers must look for skilled positions, but rather that skilled people have had to get work as truckers.

I'm an avid hitchhiker, travelling some 20 thousand kilometres a year mostly around Europe, and so I regularly meet truckers who are bored on their routine journeys and want someone to chat with. Early on I had to overcome my stereotype, fostered by films and television shows set mainly in the US, that truckers are blue-collar slobs. A lot of truck drivers in Eastern Europe are educated people (e.g. geologists, electronics engineers, ) who only turned to truck driving because it was one of the only reliable jobs in the economic downturn of the 1990s. One of my most recent drivers had a degree in chemistry but decided that life in a lab wasn't for him, and in his poor country driving for a foreign-owned logistics company was better pay anyway.

Re:Where will this truckers work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388531)

The same place the stagecoach drivers did, I suppose.

Re: Where will this truckers work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388913)

Ask the analogous question. Why don't we double the number of truck drivers, as it would give jobs to people? After automation, it would be equally silly to try to retain them. We would still be animals had we not looked for economy. That now there is a need for truck driver jobs is a mere consequence of a specific level of technological development, not some kind of destiny or ideal situation.

More logical application (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388307)

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.

If we're talking long haul freight ... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388323)

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

Re:If we're talking long haul freight ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388453)

because those already exist

Re:If we're talking long haul freight ... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 2 months ago | (#47388485)

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.

Re:If we're talking long haul freight ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47389243)

Already exists on passenger trains (see Skytrain in Vancouver, and various CBTC systems deployed around the world) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communications-based_train_control Wikipedia lists quite a few. But they are all pretty much passenger systems.

The only reason we aren't seeing this on freight is because "America" doesn't invest in their rail infrastructure when gas/diesel is cheap.

If we're talking long haul freight ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47389621)

Look at what happened on one existing self-driving train system:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_2009_Washington_Metro_train_collision

Even in the simplest possible scenario (closed and tightly controlled metro system), the biggest self-driving train system in North America (not sure about the rest of the world) STILL wasn't able to avoid a fatal accident. This accident makes me wonder if it's simply beyond the capability of humanity to engineer a complex, self-driving train system that won't malfunction and cause fatal accidents.

alternative already exists (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388327)

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.

Re:alternative already exists (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 2 months ago | (#47388495)

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.

Re:alternative already exists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388813)

Road-railers are old hat. I've seen many trains in the US with trailers on them. The problem is that the load per train is a lot less than double stacked containers.
If you have an efficient loading/unloading system then the delay at either end is pretty small. go take a look at a major container port and you will see efficient train loading/unloading.

The advantage of a train is that it can cover really long distances in better time than trucks. Truck Drivers are limited to the number of hours they can drive per day. The same applies to Train drivers but the railroads have more than a century of experience in crew rostering. If you are on the ball then a crew change could be done in 10-15 minutes.
The disadvantage is that most of the US is not electrified. This means that the diesel locos have a finite range. If you electrify the main East/West & North/South lines at 50Kv then you can use the same loco/set of locos to haul the train from say Baltimore to LA.

I'm posting AC because I work in the transport industry.

Re:alternative already exists (1)

niftymitch (1625721) | about 2 months ago | (#47389625)

.....

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.

Better than unsafe Mexican truckers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388331)

Future Truck has gotta be safer than the alternative http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-27/regulator-said-to-look-other-way-on-unsafe-mexican-trucks.html [bloomberg.com]

"Servicio de Transporte Internacional y Local SA de CV, the Mexican company that’s been inspected the most, was cited for 44 violations on a single day -- July 31, 2013. Citations included tire separations and leaks, oil and grease leaks, inoperative signals and a brake-compressor violation."

Re:Better than unsafe Mexican truckers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388667)

If the regulators are already turning a blind eye, this won't prevent them from performing maintenance on autonomous vehicles. It just means that now you'll have something weighing 80,000 lbs rolling down (off...) the road leaking oil, pumping out grease, with no brakes. Then, it will lose a tire. Or three.

Re:Better than unsafe Mexican truckers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388717)

prevent them from not performing maintenance

D'oh. I a word.

Might as well go back to rail (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 2 months ago | (#47388359)

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.

Re:Might as well go back to rail (2)

RichMan (8097) | about 2 months ago | (#47388405)

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.

Re:Might as well go back to rail (1)

overshoot (39700) | about 2 months ago | (#47388585)

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.

better idea (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 months ago | (#47388373)

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

Re:better idea (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 2 months ago | (#47389255)

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

Someone's going to have a lot of fun (1)

overshoot (39700) | about 2 months ago | (#47388385)

injecting bogus congestion information into the network.

What about speed limits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388409)

I wonder about this for any "autonomous" vehicle. In the US, drivers routinely violate the posted speed limit. If you aren't driving faster than the speed limit, in many cases you have drivers riding your bumper. So do they program the vehicle to obey speed limits?

Re:What about speed limits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388683)

No, you just program it to brake check the asshole behind you. Preferably with a reinforced, purpose built spike designed to puncture their radiator. If it goes through the rest of the cabin too, well, that's a minor thing. More of a feature than a bug, really.

Re: What about speed limits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47390417)

I have been thinking that a brake fluid spray might be the best response to tailgaters. It's something that concievably could have leaked out on it's own, not so flammable as to be a fire risk when your bumper-mounted sprayer activates, and it's rather corrosive to the tailgater's paint job.

Inherent problems (1)

Justpin (2974855) | about 2 months ago | (#47388431)

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.

Re:Inherent problems (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47388639)

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 entirely.

I remember unloading a refrigerated truck with another bloke with a fork lift dolly and a powered tail gate, it took forever to unload.

If the dolly is robotic and it controls the lift gate, then it not only will go quicker than if you're involved (don't need any room for you in the system) but it can use an optimizer to determine what order in which to shift pallets if they aren't in proper order. So can a relatively intelligent human, of course, but what percentage of people shifting pallets are that? Obviously some...

Re:Inherent problems (1)

Computershack (1143409) | about 2 months ago | (#47389071)

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.

Re:Inherent problems (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47389481)

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.

Re:Inherent problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47389359)

Presumably at a load's origin and terminus there will be humans with machines to assist loading and unloading.

But everyone has missed the problem of fueling. An 18 wheeler needs to be refueled every 1000 mi or so. That range might work inside Germany, but not across Europe, and certainly not across the US.

Unless special self-refueling sites were constructed first (chicken and egg problem) then human assistance would be required to assist with refueling. Hardly an unsolvable problem as it could be contracted to the company running the regular refueling stops. But the complicated interactions necessary to meet with that human, and navigate through random slow-speed and parked vehicled to an appropriate fueling stand, add to the special-case interactions the truck must master. Or else the trucks must be equipped to be driven by a local human, which is probably already the case for loading and unloading.

Re:Inherent problems (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | about 2 months ago | (#47389595)

Just increasing the fuel capacity seems to be a lot easier.

Re:Inherent problems (1)

Justpin (2974855) | about 2 months ago | (#47389615)

Er trucks have pretty big tanks, in France the legal limit is 1500 litres, they split this into 999litres and 501litre tanks to dodge various rules of hazardous materials. A lot of EU countries have lorries with 2400 litre tanks, they just don't drive through France to get here as the Gendarmes check them. It is a source of annoyance for the UK truck industry as many European trucks (where diesel is cheaper) would come with tanks brimmed and would be able to make a delivery using UK roads without buying any fuel or contributing to using the roads. They now get charged £10 ($16) at ports.

Prepare Now (4, Interesting)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:Prepare Now (1)

1369IC (935113) | about 2 months ago | (#47388615)

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.) that's a laughable pipe dream. I think we should go to a freemium concept. You get a 3D printed house and a certain amount of food grown by agricultural robots on federal land. And maybe basic TV and ubiquitous wifi. Anything above that and you have to get a job and pay for it. There are a certain number of people who will just spend their time lying about doing nothing, but I think the majority of people will want something enough to get a job. Also, people who don't have to slave away at something crappy will have the freedom to try something creative. I think a world full of boutique shops -- like etsy but on carts or store fronts -- would spring up.

Re:Prepare Now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47389065)

You already have that in the US. Section 8 housing, SNAP/EBT food benefits, what is now called "Obamaphone", Medicaide, and on and on.
I don't understand why people like you keep saying this is what we need, when we already have it.

Re:Prepare Now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47389221)

There's a big difference between providing those things piecemeal to people who can get through the bureaucracy and "prove need" and providing them to everyone.

I have a friend who needs those services and he has posted a few times about how terrible the requirements and bureaucracy are. It took several months for him to get food stamps. At one point, he was directly told by a clerk that he was supposed to lie about his assets because the alternative was literally spending a month on the streets. After all, if we actually provided food and housing to everyone, why are there homeless people?

Re:Prepare Now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47389239)

So not having to work at all and having to fill out government forms is too much effort for free money?

Re:Prepare Now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47389305)

Because we don't.

If we hand everyone who enters the country these benefits, then the US would rapidly gain useless populations. Hence we don't.

The welfare system in most countries often is insufficient to live everywhere in the country, let alone afford to be somewhere where the jobs are. If I want to go live in the boonies, I could buy a "welfare trailer" [sic], drop it on federal land somewhere, and I would be undisturbed until someone realized it's not supposed to be there. Given I'd have to steal electricity/water or buy solar panels and water barrels to do that.

No the average person is better off being shoved in a 500sq foot apartment in the state capitol and being subsidized to work jobs that "illegal immigrants" would otherwise take. So your fast foodies, janitorial staff and landscapers can afford to do all the "crap work" that most Americans would otherwise turn their nose up at. But as I said, in this example you are subsidizing the "living" portion of the unskilled worker through government welfare, while the "I want to make a little bit more" is them actually getting the unskilled job and keeping it.

Places like NYC, SF, Vancouver (BC), have nice transit systems, but they are insanely expensive to put people where the jobs are. The only person who benefits from subsidies are the landlords.

And to bring this back on topic, "unskilled workers" also include the people who load and unload trucks at grocery/shops. Even if a truck could be automated to deliver goods, it can't deal with people factors.

Re:Prepare Now (1)

iroll (717924) | about 2 months ago | (#47389529)

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

Re:Prepare Now (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47389669)

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 a society, to have a place for these people.

Over 3.5 million truckers in the US (5, Insightful)

rabbin (2700077) | about 2 months ago | (#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)

Re:Over 3.5 million truckers in the US (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388685)

You are forgetting something. Make less babies. Yes.. that is the solution to less jobs. Have more time to live, make use of all the nice automation when young, see the world, etc.. make a baby (yes, only one per person!) only when you are like 40. Thing is.. Murica's economic system (or the lack of) works on something imaginative and ephemeral called "growth". Perpetual growth is not possible, plain and simple! We only need for one (perhaps two) generations to save money and pass them onto their children, so said children can enjoy the world and the wonders of the automation when they are young, save money for their kids later, and have their single kid later in life.

The planet cannot sustain (produce resources at the same rate they are consumed) 7 milliard (that is 10 with 9 zeroes for you) people. Not even 3. About 2.8 should be the entire world population, we should focus on sustainability instead of growth - forget about profits for the sake of profits - something should only be made and sold if there is an immediate need for its use/consumption. That way we could even sustain fossil fuels. But noo.. 'cause murica.. growth.. greed.
 

Re:Over 3.5 million truckers in the US (1)

Nephandus (2953269) | about 2 months ago | (#47388807)

Welfare litters aren't based on sanity but greed without accountability, which ironically is moralized for that socioeconomic bracket. Only those sanely seeking profit particularly care to police their own breeding. Besides, your totalitarian hell wouldn't survive a generation of people having minds of their own. Who cares to live on the basis of mere survival? Not most potential technocrats, which you'd require, unless you want to subsist as only a slightly updated stone age culture. Rather against the point of being people instead of surrendering the biomass to amoeba, but that might explain why you think it'd survive. It'd require mind-control: goodthink, crimethink, minitrue, miniluv etc. You'd have to depersonalize each person. Their psyches would be mere tools to make the meaningless pattern that'd pass for human culture. Rather prefer microbial cultures. A more honest and efficient means of sustaining mere biomass for its own sake.

Re:Over 3.5 million truckers in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47389421)

WTF are you rambling about? The guy just talked about making less babies.

I live in Canada. The fertility rate is at 1.61 per woman. So it's already less than 1 child per person and that number is inflated because immigrants women have more children than native Canadian. Even more important, the government heavily spend money to encourage women to have children. Without all this money, the fertility rate would be even lower.

The only way the government can sustain growth is with massive immigration. More than 20% of people living now in Canada were not born in here. Without this immigration, the population would naturally decline.

All your rambling about needing a totalitarian technocracy is completely ridiculous.

Re:Over 3.5 million truckers in the US (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 2 months ago | (#47389291)

only immigrants (especially illegals) make the USA population grow, without them it would shrink

The reality is world population will peak about 2070 and then shrink, your claims of how many people can be sustained are without foundation. that is a pure engineering problem with known solutions. Resources aren't disappearing, there is fuel for millenia and any minerals don't disappear. Even the hype about helium is nonsense, most helium just vented from wells at the present. We only have engineering problems, not the guaranteed doom you chicken littles spout, aping without understanding

Re:Over 3.5 million truckers in the US (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47388693)

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.

Re:Over 3.5 million truckers in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47389237)

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.

1% are wasting their lives doing a job a brick can 100% of the time: sitting in prison. Yes, land of the free indeed.

Re:Over 3.5 million truckers in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47389003)

>>(no, they didn't turn to drugs or other antisocial activities because there was "nothing to do"...that stuff stems from poverty, not unemployment

Sure. All those famous musicians, politicians, and movie stars that get arrested with drugs, or check into rehab, or die of an overdose - that's all poverty.

Re:Over 3.5 million truckers in the US (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 2 months ago | (#47389307)

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? (3, Insightful)

bradley13 (1118935) | about 2 months ago | (#47388483)

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...

Re:Rail? (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 months ago | (#47388503)

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.

Re:Rail? (2)

umafuckit (2980809) | about 2 months ago | (#47388635)

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 likely need more track and more switches. Thus, I can see various reasons why the initiatives have failed. It may not be just vested interests that are holding things back. Quite possible it's also more complicated than just "using the existing rail system."

Re:Rail? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388651)

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? (3, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 months ago | (#47388715)

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.

Re:Rail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47389385)

Try adapting a large manufacturing chain to varying demand and internal events when you have to book freight capacity *3 months* in advance.

Re:Rail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47389411)

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.

Freight is put on rail in Europe, it's just that the higher priority is for putting people on rail. So freight is then put on trucks.

It's the opposite in the US: a larger portion of goods is moved by train, and people use roads/card.

(At least that's what I've been led to believe; haven't been able to dig up numbers to support this claim.)

Rail? (1)

Jmstuckman (561420) | about 2 months ago | (#47389653)

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 lines that share track with freight suffer from very slow average speeds and long delays, as they get stuck behind freight trains and are sometimes forced to stop and wait for conflicting traffic to pass. This results in long delays (both on long-distance lines and on local commuter lines which share freight tracks into the city) and the inability to add extra trains to improve service. Furthermore, for a passenger train to survive a crash with a freight train, an extraordinary amount of extra mass must be built into the passenger train, raising costs considerably. (Look up the Wikipedia page for the USA's Acela Express rolling stock.)

program them (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388487)

to run over niggers

"Autonomous" mining and logging trucks... (1)

beaverdownunder (1822050) | about 2 months ago | (#47388543)

...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.

Video of Army autonomous vehicle test (2)

1369IC (935113) | about 2 months ago | (#47388643)

The Army has conducted several successful tests of this. Video of one is here [youtube.com] .

Maximum Overdrive. (1)

Vellmont (569020) | about 2 months ago | (#47388785)

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.

No subject needed (1)

Charcharodon (611187) | about 2 months ago | (#47388803)

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.

it will be fun... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47388841)

... watching what happens to all these automatic vehicles when the net goes down, the power goes out or "nefarious hackers" penetrate whatever security might be present. As others wrote in a post re: auto-cars, kidnapping's easier when the vehicle does the delivery...

And the US lawyers... It's going to be like throwing chum into a pod of orca.

As a truck driver in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47389557)

As a truck driver for many years, the laughable stories like these about self driving trucks always makes me laugh. For one thing, truck drivers in the US don't just drive trucks, they load them, unload them, drop and hook trailers, and back them into docks. I even find the more mundane routes like a delivery driver very complex and find other replacements like drones just a laughable. The least difficult task, is making a vehicle go down a highway. Its what happens when you get somewhere that requires the human touch. Now, that said, I can see a few examples where a self driving truck is possible. Such as in terminal to terminal situations or in places where it is dangerous to have a manned vehicle such as a military convoy. I have seen these tests done. But the human involvement in vehicles will continue for some time although some examples like trains, buses and taxi's might begin to show some signs of that human interaction as being optional.

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