Google veterans head off on their own to work on self-driving trucks

Past employees from Apple, Tesla, Cruise Automation, Google, and several others have joined forced to create a new Silicon Valley based company – called Otto – to focus on commercial self-driving trucks. Two of the prominent founders include Lior Ron, prior top executive in Google Maps, and Anthony Levandowski, a member of Google’s self driving car team. It seems like experience from all sides of the industry are coming together to tackle the problem. Instead of building trucks, Otto aims to create software kits for existing models that can be installed. Otto is initially focusing on high way driving as most trucks spend most mileage at high speeds. Human drivers will still have to navigate cities and streets. Levandowski is an industry leader in autonomous driving with experience that pre-dates Google’s Otto5.0programs. The company is entirely self-funded with no external investors holding any shares. There is currently no release date of final price, however it is expected to be much less than $100,000 – $300,000, the average price of a freight truck. Otto-trucks will be able to operate for many more hours than a human driver is allowed to. Regulations are in place regarding rest hours, but autonomous driving is paving a new path that will require new laws. Daimler and Volvo Trucks are also researching self-driving systems to implement within their own trucks. Levandowski writes on the competition, “I think the trucking folks are doing a great job, and eventually they would probably solve the problem… I’m not trying to dismiss them in any way, I think it’s fantastic what they’re doing. But I think it’s a different timeframe and objectives as to what we’re trying to solve and what they’re trying to solve.” These manufacturers will require brand-new trucks to implement the software, where Otto is aiming to add to existing trucks. Autonomous trucking seems like an incredibly lucrative industry as trucks can be driven on the high way from point-to-point and navigated around cities by humans waiting on each side.

 

 

4 comments to Google veterans head off on their own to work on self-driving trucks

  • cranea18

    I think Levandowski and Ron have found a part of the environment of driving that has nobody has attempted to tackle yet. That is the amount of long distance drives that trucks drive all across the country and how the shipping companies that own these trucks hire workers to drive the trucks for an entire day in a straight line. By having autonomous trucks that can drive on the interstate but do not have to account for inner-city driving, it saves shipping companies the cost of hiring labor. It also requires less in terms of cost and technology to build it because it only needs to be able to drive on the highway. I can definitely see Otto emerging as a successful company in the future.

  • manleya18

    I appreciate that Ron and Levandowski are are creating a software that can be installed on already existing trucks. Truck companies will not need to invest in entirely new 18-wheelers to keep up with the times, but this raises the question: will trucking companies be able to find “drivers” to work at a decreased pay, realistically close to minimum wage, once the job is dwindled down to driving only in cities? In addition, who will be the first trucking company to adopt the new technology?

  • brewsterw18

    Personally, I think this would be an outstanding breakthrough if their goal can be reached, even more than the self-automative car. This is because for business, transportation costs seemed to be the most within any company, so if they could somehow cut down on the excess payments to drivers than that would be greatly beneficial for certain companies. However, many of the drivers (like Murray said) would be either laid off or apathetic to continue working in their field, so this would yet again be another case of workers losing their jobs to technology (just like in manufacturing which we saw at Metalsa).

  • adamsm19

    I think this idea makes a lot of sense given the constraints placed on drivers who cannot travel all night. I would be interested in ultimately seeing roads designed specifically for self-driving trucks carrying freight.