While many companies are focusing on creating autonomous cars for the average driver, Otto has taken a new approach. Otto, a company of former Google, Tesla, and Apple employees, has kept the project quiet until this week’s unveiling. Otto began with the idea to created safer roadways by enhancing the ability of truck drivers. While trucks drive 5.6 percent of all miles driven in the U.S. they make up 9.5 percent of all fatalities. At the same time, the American Trucking Association has been recently dealing with a driver shortage, prompting Otto to change directions. Unlike other companies like Daimler which have tested fleets of self-driving trucks, Otto has developed sensors to outfit existing trucks. This strategy decreases the investment required to build entirely new trucks by using the pre-existing capital of transportation. While the company does not wish to remove humans entirely, the sensors will allow the driver to rest or sleep while the truck continues its journey. The equipment has been tested on public highways. Check out the video here.
In light of our discussion at Metalsa yesterday, this news is extremely interested. Mr. Cosgrove mentioned that even the slightly improvement in weight or efficiency can provide great benefits to the transporter. This technology could potentially decrease the number of stops required of truck drivers. Currently, regulations require truck drivers to break 10 hours every 24 hours period to prevent falling asleep at the wheel and other accidents. With Otto’s new sensors, a driver could potentially drive a long journey straight through while sleeping for periods of time as the truck continues the journey on its own. The decrease in travel time would not only move goods faster, but also allow the current level of drivers to move more goods. In this way, Otto is not only solving a problem for trucking companies, but also creating safer roadways.