Autonomous trucking future ‘is almost upon us,’ Uber Freight head says

By Pras Subramanian

Uber Freight (UBER) thinks it has a solution to the ongoing truck driver shortage here in the U.S.

The unit, which is Uber’s trucking logistics and supply chain management offering, said in a report released earlier this month that autonomous trucking is the key to solving the driver shortage crisis — but not because the industry won’t need drivers. They’ll just be doing a different type of driving.

“We’re getting ready for that future with drivers that will be available on both sides of the autonomous freight, available to pick up and drop off the freight that is being hauled by the autonomous truck by providing a network of drop trails on both ends that will allow for that move to happen,” said Lior Ron, the head of Uber Freight in an interview with Yahoo Finance Live.

What Uber is envisioning is a hub-to-hub system — a hybrid of human drivers working with autonomous trucks.

“Hub-to-hub essentially means that you only do the autonomous freight between a hub off the highway, close to the origin of the load, and a hub close to the destination of the load,” Ron said. “In between, the autonomous freight can run on the highway in a very predictable, very repeatable way.”

At each hub, human drivers will transport goods from essentially the first mile to the hub and the last mile from the destination hub to the final destination.

“We believe that model is much more scalable. We believe that model can actually have the density of freight you need,” Ron said. “This is going to be like the airline — you need to have as much freight going on that truck back and forth.”

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First Look: Waymo’s New Self‑Driving Trucking Hub Opens in Lancaster

BY DAVID SEELEY 

Waymo’s new hub—built from the ground up—is a $10 million investment in Lancaster that will bring “hundreds of jobs” to the community, a Waymo exec announced at its opening last week. 

“This operation and Waymo’s investment in the region further cements Dallas-Fort Worth as the home to autonomous vehicles in the U.S.,” added Duane Dankesreiter, SVP for research and innovation at the Dallas Regional Chamber.

There’s way more autonomous trucking going on in Dallas-Fort Worth than most places in the U.S.—and Waymo is one reason why. Last week the company opened a new nine-acre autonomous trucking hub in Lancaster, just south of Dallas. 

It’s a $10 million investment that’s expected to bring hundreds of jobs to the community—and advance the industry’s novel technology.

“This facility has been built from the ground up to support Waymo Via, which is our Class 8 trucking solution,” Rocky Garff, head of trucking operations for Waymo, said at a ribbon-cutting event at the hub last Wednesday. “We’re growing our operations and our investment here in Texas, and across the southwestern U.S. region. We’re super excited for what’s to come.”

“The vision is that we can launch trucks autonomously and then receive them autonomously here,” Garff added as he offered a tour of the facility and its 10 truck maintenance bays, six EV charging stations, and diesel fueling operations.

Waymo currently operates 20 autonomous trucks out of the hub, with plans to grow that “quite a bit” by end of year, Garff said. 

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EU plans to approve sales of fully self-driving cars

A Vision Urbanetic self-driving van by Mercedes-Benz | John MacDougall AFP via Getty Images

BY JOSHUA POSANER

Europe aims to be the first-mover when it comes to letting so-called Level 4 autonomous cars on the road.

The European Commission is ready to let robots take the wheel.

The EU’s executive plans to propose by the end of September what it reckons will be the world’s first technical legislation that will allow member countries to approve the registration and sale of up to 1,500 vehicles per carmaker model each year installed with advanced self-driving technology, an EU official involved in drafting the rules told POLITICO.

Such vehicles, where motorists are no longer required to supervise driving, are still very much in the development stage. The aim is to fix Europe’s position as a first mover for next-generation cars able to navigate road networks and traffic autonomously, said two officials briefed on the plan.

“We are moving from the experimentation phase to the commercial phase,” the EU official said.

The legislation will include 17 separate pieces of technical rule-making that will amend how EU countries approve vehicles for sale. It’s part of a much broader revamp of car safety standards called the General Safety Regulation (GSR) — part of which enters into force on Wednesday.

The EU aims to reach zero road deaths by 2050, but to do that it has to boost safety features in cars, as human error is estimated to be at fault in 95 percent of vehicular accidents.

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Einride’s Driverless Electric Pod Approved for US Public Roads

The Swedish startup’s electric trucks will carry out a test on public roads in Q3 this year.

By Stephanie MlotStephanie Mlot

Swedish transport company Einride got the green light to operate autonomous electric trucks without a driver present on US public roads.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approved the company’s “Pod” for public roads, which counts as an industry first for this type of driverless truck.

A sleek black-and-white box on wheels, the Einride Pod doesn’t have room for a human driver. Instead, a remote operator monitors and can step in to control the vehicle if necessary. As these are effectively electric trucks and will be transporting heavy goods, it comes as no surprise that the range is estimated to be 124 miles on a fully-charged battery.

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Autonomous transport vessel wins state funding

By Vince McDonagh 

The hydrogen-powered Samskip SeaShuttleAn ambitious project to build two hydrogen-powered, remotely controlled and autonomous-ready containerships has secured NOK150m (£12.5m) in funding from Norwegian state enterprise ENOVA.

The SeaShuttle vessels, the developers say, will have zero greenhouse gas emissions and can potentially operate autonomously. There are two on order, due for delivery by 2025.

They will operate between Oslofjord, near the Norwegian capital, and Rotterdam, and their cargo is expected to include salmon and other seafood destined for European markets.

The project is being led by multimodal transport and logistics group Samskip and marine robotics specialist Ocean Infinity.

Each vessel will be powered by  a 3.2MW hydrogen fuel cell.ENOVA, which operates under Norway’s Ministry of Climate and Environment, promotes a shift towards more environmentally friendly energy consumption and production, as well as technologies based on sustainable energy.

Originally announced at Nor-Shipping 2022 two months ago, the Samskip-Ocean Infinity partnership covers both the construction and operation of the ships, in a collaboration seeking to push forward towards zero-emission, efficient and safe, multimodal logistics.

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AI-AI-O: The first driverless robot tractor unveiled to farmers at show

Visitors to the Highland show had the opportunity to get up close with the first driverless robot tractor to be on sale to Scotland’s farmers.

Capable of a multitude of farm tasks using normal farm implement attachments, the AgBot 5.115T2 is a 156hp dual tracked driverless tractor which is now available to buy from Angus-based precision farming specialists, SoilEssentials.

The machine, which took pride of place on the company’s stand at the show, is also scheduled to carry out on-farm demonstration days in East Lothian and Angus later this week.

The company’s managing director, Jim Wilson, said that despite the £220,000 price tag, there had been several strong declarations of interest.

“The game-changer is that there is no need for anyone to sit in the driving seat – a major bonus in this time of labour shortages. And when you take into account the fact that one of these machines can work through the night, the investment sounds less daunting.”

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Hydron to Produce Hydrogen-Powered Autonomous Trucks

Hydron aims to manufacture hydrogen-powered autonomous trucks. Courtesy: Hydron.

by Charles Choi

The co-founder of autonomous driving technology firm TuSimple is now launching a venture, Hydron, to manufacture pollution-free hydrogen-powered autonomous trucks, the new company announced June 10.

Southern California-based Hydron aims to develop, manufacture and sell trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells that are equipped with Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Level 4 autonomy—that is, able to act without any human intervention in the vast majority of situations.

“The path to commercializing autonomous vehicles requires the complex integration of both hardware and software,” Mo Chen, chief executive officer at Hydron, said in a statement. “The biggest challenge in bringing autonomous driving to the market at scale is not software development, but access to reliable mass production hardware, and now with Hydron, we will be able to provide automotive-grade hardware specifically for autonomous networks.”

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UK government announces funding to encourage autonomous commercial vehicle development

 By LAWRENCE BUTCHER

A new £40m (US$50m) competition to kick-start commercial self-driving services, such as delivery vehicles and passenger shuttles, has been launched in the UK. The ‘Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility’ competition will provide grants to help roll out commercial use self-driving vehicles across the UK from 2025.

The competition is intended to help bring together companies and investors so that sustainable business models can be rolled out nationally and exported globally. The types of self-driving vehicles that could be deployed include delivery vans, passenger buses, shuttles and pods, as well as vehicles that move people and luggage at airports and containers at shipping ports.

UK Minister for investment Lord Grimstone said, “Self-driving vehicles have the potential to revolutionize people’s lives, whether it’s by helping to better connect people who rely on public transport with jobs, local shops and vital services, or by making it easier for those who have mobility issues to order and access services conveniently.

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Self-Driving Truck Navigates Maze of China Vases

A Swedish freight technology company has demonstrated the precision of its self-driving electric truck by having a pair of them navigate a maze of China vases.

Einride said they made this video, which shows their Pod model, on May 18.

The company said the Pod “currently operates on public roads and at customer sites in Sweden with remote oversight and drive capability.”

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Self-driving buses, shuttles and delivery vans could hit UK roads

Kiera Sowery 

A £40m competition to kick-start commercial self-driving services, such as delivery vehicles and passenger shuttles, has been launched by Lord Grimstone, Minister for Investment. The funding could create tens of thousands of skilled jobs across the UK over the next decade.

The ‘Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility’ competition will provide grants to help roll out commercial use self-driving vehicles across the UK from 2025, delivering convenience for consumers and making journeys safer, greener and more reliable.

The competition will help bring together companies and investors so that sustainable business models to be rolled out nationally and exported globally.

Types of self-driving vehicles that could be deployed include delivery vans, passenger buses, shuttles and pods, as well as vehicles that move people and luggage at airports and containers at shipping ports.

Minister for Investment Lord Grimstone said: “Self-driving vehicles have the potential to revolutionise people’s lives, whether its by helping to better connect people who rely on public transport with jobs, local shops, and vital services, or by making it easier for those who have mobility issues to order and access services conveniently.

“This funding will help unlock the incredible potential of this new and growing industry, building on the continued development of self-driving technology, attracting investment and helping make our transport cleaner, safer and more efficient.”

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startup gatik says it will put self-driving trucks on the road in Kansas

May 19 (Reuters) – Autonomous delivery truck startup Gatik on Thursday said it will be putting its box trucks on the road in Kansas after state officials gave it and its partner and customer Walmart Inc (WMT.N) the go-ahead.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly on Friday signed into law a bill permitting use of driverless vehicles in the state without a human safety driver behind the wheel.

Gatik’s head of policy, Richard Steiner, told Reuters in an interview the company would be “getting our trucks on the road now” in Kansas, but declined to comment on whether they would be making deliveries for Walmart or any other customer.

He said Gatik and Walmart held many conversations over the last year with Kansas legislators and law enforcement officials. The Teamsters union, a trial lawyers and a Kansas workers’ group had opposed the bill, citing issues such as insurance and liability requirements.

The Teamsters in a statement said the bill was rushed through, and that it allowed autonomous vehicles to operate “recklessly, risking the lives of our friends and neighbors, and upending the workforce as we know it.”

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Autonomous Hyundai Ioniq 5 EVs Now Delivering Food In California

Are AVs the future of food delivery? 

By: Anthony Alaniz

Uber Eats deliveries in Santa Monica are about to change. Today, the food delivery company and Motional began operating their automated delivery service. The two announced a partnership in December.

This pilot program will allow Motional and Uber to study the technology alongside consumer demand. The two will also learn how consumers interact with the autonomous vehicle.

The delivery service works by alerting the restaurant when the AV arrives at the designated pick-up location. There’s a specially designed backseat compartment for the food. When the AV arrives at the drop-off location, it alerts the customer, who can unlock the vehicle through the Uber Eats app and collect their order.

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