One of the most common causes of tractor trailer crashes is driver fatigue.
It is difficult for big rig drivers not to experience certain levels of
tiredness, especially after being on the road for hours and days at a
time. In an effort to solve this safety concern, as well as possible issues
with driver shortages in the future, a new driving technology has been
introduced that many are hesitant to accept.
Otto, a self-driving technology for commercial trucks based in San Francisco,
is operated by former Google employees. The goal of Otto is to equip tractor
trailers on highways across the nation with autonomous capabilities –
or the ability to operate without a human driver. Otto employees believe
that self-driving technologies will improve highway safety, as 9.5% of
all fatalities are caused by trucks. Co-founder Lior Ron, who worked for
Google Maps previously, had this to say about Otto’s technology:
“Because of federal regulations, a truck can only drive 11 hours
a day today with a single driver. After 10 hours, the accident rate goes
exponentially higher. If we can make it drive safely 24/7, more than doubling
its capacity and utilization, that’s a very strong financial argument.”
Instead of creating new trucks equipped with this technology, Otto aims
to install the self-driving equipment on existing big rigs currently navigating
roads throughout the U.S. One of the founders, Anthony Levandowski, is
credited with building the first self-driving car at Google. This allowed
for expertise that many others would not possess.
In the four months since the company started, three tractor trailers have
already had the automated technology installed. The first public highway
extended test occurred last weekend in Nevada. The next step is to find
1,000 truck drivers that will offer their vehicles for a free self-driving
kit installation on their trucks. The drivers would have to remain in
the driver’s seat during testing, just in case something goes wrong
and they have to take control of the vehicles.
The ultimate goal of self-driving trucks, much like
autonomous passenger vehicles, is to improve reliability to that of a machine while operating in a human-like
manner. After all, if this technology succeeds it will provide commercial
drivers with time to sleep, do paperwork, and relax while traveling. This
would therefore extend their overall time able to travel at once.