Could Remote Control Systems Accelerate Driverless Trucking?
Imagine … You’re driving a truck but not sitting in the cab. Instead, you’re at an office or warehouse near your home, several hundred miles from that vehicle, controlling it remotely from a computer, much like how a military drone pilot operates unmanned aerial vehicles from the other side of the globe.
And your job is to “drive” that truck via remote control from the shipper to the highway, at which point the vehicle transitions into full self-driving mode. Then, when the truck is ready to exit the highway, you retake control and guide the vehicle from the off ramp to the delivery destination.
Sound far fetched?
Well, San Francisco-based startup Starsky Robotics has developed a working prototype. And earlier this year, a Starsky-equipped Freightliner Cascadia hauled a 5,000-pound load from Orlando to Ft. Lauderdale, traveling 120 miles autonomously on the highway and another 20 miles via remote control on local roads, according to reporting by Trucks.com.
Here is a video that captures that trip.
Starsky’s aftermarket retrofit kit includes robotics controls that physically push the pedals, turn the steering wheel, and change gear. And the remote drivers are able to take control of the trucks at any time. This video gives you a good behind-the-scenes view of how a driver interacts with the system.
The company says that each driver will be able to monitor and occasionally control between 10 and 30 trucks at a time.
“If drivers got to go home every night, it’d be a lot easier to hire drivers — it would fundamentally solve the labor shortage,” Starsky’s founder Stefan Seltz-Axmacher tells Trucks.com. “Any technology that doesn’t remove the person from the truck doesn’t solve the problem.”
According to the company’s website, Starsky is actively hiring commercial drivers with a clean driving record and at least five years experience.