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Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

Posted October 26, 2016 9:03 AM by Bayes

Self-driving vehicles have always seemed to me to be one of those technologies that is in development for a long time without any real world adoption. I know that Tesla has a version of autopilot that requires you to sit at the wheel and take over if there is any issue, that's not what I mean by real world adoption. I mean take a nap or do something else while the vehicle drives itself.

One of the industries that stands to benefit immensely from self-driving vehicles is the trucking industry. Up until recently things looked pretty safe for truck drivers, but then this happened:

Otto's Robotruck Hauls Budweiser While the Driver Twiddles His Thumbs in the Back

An Otto self-driving truck has just hauled 51,744 cans of Budweiser from Fort Collins, Colo., to Colorado Springs—a nearly 200-kilometer (120-mile) ride—without any human intervention,

“Once you’re on the Interstate, one switch and it’s driving itself down the road,” says backup driver Walter Martin, in this video clip supplied by Otto, which is based in San Francisco. For most of the trip, he monitored the self-driving system from a sleeper berth in the back.

Martin’s been driving long-haul trucks since 2007, but maybe his generation will be the last to do it all the way to retirement. The title of a post on this blog said it all back in May, when we reported on the company’s emergence from stealth mode: “Otto Self-Driving Truck Company Wants to Replace Teamsters.

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#1

Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

10/26/2016 12:12 PM

I want to see this truck automatically install chains and drive over Donner Pass in a February snowstorm.

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#2
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Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

10/26/2016 3:22 PM

In the spring we'll find the dead cab on the side of the road, next to half the trailer.

(i.e. "No party like a Donner party.")

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#3
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Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

10/26/2016 10:50 PM

Uh guys, the Donner Pass that I know is in California.

Up and down Pike's Peak would be a trip!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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#7
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Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

10/27/2016 2:32 PM

The assumption being that eventually OTTO will be allowed to leave the State. We could say I-70 during a snow storm but that didn't have the same panache as Donner Pass.

I've skied both the Sierras as well as the Rockies and lots of East Coast crud. Squaw Valley isn't far from Donner. There are some smaller ski areas right on Donner Pass but they didn't have enough vertical to satisfy me back then. Nowadays, I appreciate the smaller areas better since I am 30 years senior and the testosterone doesn't run nearly as strong. I don't think I'll be hiking out onto the Headwall anymore.

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#4
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Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

10/26/2016 11:25 PM

Sir Robin : for you.

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#6
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Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

10/27/2016 8:46 AM

I remember an old article about driving with snow chains, it stated that it is best to travel with two friends, one who is adept at installing & removing snow chains and detangling snow chains from axles; and one friend who is adept at recognizing the sound of snow chains getting tangled around an axle.

Since I only drive in and around cities during the winter, I've never had to put on snow chains, in fact I've never been ALLOWED to put on snow chains (they tear up asphalt streets, and chip away at concrete driving surfaces, so they're banned from street use in almost the entire 7-county region).

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#15
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Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

11/01/2016 10:40 AM

I think you are missing the point: this automation level brings the single-driver long haul market into view. Instead of choosing between drive/sleep routines and dual driver teams, even a limited self-driving truck like OTTO would allow a single driver (owner-operator?) to do almost-non-stop long distance runs: manual drive during the early and late phases of the trip and auto-drive/sleep on the Interstate. The auto-drive would only need to be able to make a safe stop in case of events/emergencies and let the driver take control of the situation. That would really shake up this market from a cost per mile perspective.

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#16
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Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

11/01/2016 12:07 PM

If you are comfortable sharing the road with a 88,000 pound self-guided machine, that's ok with me. I'm not. I know enough to be concerned about this. This lends a whole new meaning to blue screen of death. Let's see if we can safely automate trains before we try road going vehicles. Then come and talk to me again.

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#19
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Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

11/01/2016 4:52 PM

That's 20K tons of train.

The average BNSF 130 car loaded coal train weighs in at 18,591 tons.

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#21
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Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

11/01/2016 7:32 PM

That's why I stopped driving on the tracks years ago.

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#18
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Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

11/01/2016 1:03 PM

"I think you are missing the point: this automation level brings the single-driver long haul market into view. Instead of choosing between drive/sleep routines and dual driver teams, even a limited self-driving truck like OTTO would allow a single driver (owner-operator?) to do almost-non-stop long distance runs: manual drive during the early and late phases of the trip and auto-drive/sleep on the Interstate. The auto-drive would only need to be able to make a safe stop in case of events/emergencies and let the driver take control of the situation. That would really shake up this market from a cost per mile perspective."

And how would the Owner/Operator drivers scrape together the capital to get a self-driving truck? This technology shifts more power to the corporations and away from the workers and Unions.

How many corporations will only pay for the miles the driver is actually in control for? Even if he still is counted as 'in control' during the full 8 hours of the 8 hours driving/16 hours resting cycle (If I'm getting the cycle correct), the corporation is still getting 2/3rds of the miles 'for free,' effectively cutting the driver's pay to a third of what it would have been without the self-driving truck.

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#20
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Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

11/01/2016 7:30 PM

I have to agree with Sir Robin.

Based on your statement Mr. Olaf, I see that you know absolutely nothing about long haul and if you do know anything, then you have completely forgotten that there is no such thing as, " the beginning and ending of a trip ".

I would drive on average, 500-600 miles during a 10 hour run.

During my drive time, I could enter and exit more than two dozen towns and cities.

This means, that if I was in an automated truck, I would have to get up and lay down every 10-15 minutes.

Completely impractical.

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#23
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Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

11/02/2016 9:08 AM

Perhaps Mr. Olaf thought long haul trucking meant staying on the interstates for the majority of the trip. If memory serves, the Interstates were laid out so thay would remain 'limited access' from beginning to end, so the Interstate traffic does not actually 'enter' the towns and cities. And in the cases where an Interstate DOES pass through a city and become part of the local traffic, then a Bypass route could be built around the city to provide relief from local congestion. After all, that's why the 'I-2xx' designation exists, right?

What Mr. Olaf is completely failing to realize is that truckers are paid, not by the hour, but by the mile. Once you have the vehicle moving while the 'driver' is merely cargo, those are miles the driver isn't being paid for, and so his pay for the job is effectively reduced. It's even worse for owner/operators, since during the time the computer is driving and the driver is just cargo, the vehicle is still putting miles on the odometer, and consuming fuel, all adding to the costs during a time when the truck is not making money for the O/O, but *IS* adding to the profits of the cargo owner. Before we roll out self-driving trucks for mainstream use, we first need to be sure the result will be fair for the drivers and O/O's, Instead of having the technology be another way for the corporations to funnel profits to the 1%ers.

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#5

Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

10/26/2016 11:33 PM

I wonder what the limits were on the insurance waiver that Walter Martin signed ?

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#8

Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

10/28/2016 8:09 AM

Funny thing, calling it "OTTO"!

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#9
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Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

10/28/2016 9:26 AM

I wonder if there is a connection..........................................

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#10

Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

10/28/2016 10:04 AM

See todays Caption This.

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#11

Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

10/28/2016 1:46 PM

Interstate 25 is a pretty simple run from Denver to Colorado Springs, except for "Monument hill"...I doubt they'll make runs when it ices up, there are times when no deliveries happen for 2-3 days, and I-70 east has permanent closable gates when the weather gets crappy, nobody rolls chains or no.

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#12
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Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

10/28/2016 10:19 PM

I have driven I-70 in an 18 wheeler many times, those gates you speak of were designed with controlling human vehicle pilots in mind. The true test of this technology is when the Colorado DOT gives approval for full scale testing from Denver towards the west during the dead of winter.

One thing I had observed, over several hundred thousand miles behind the wheel, was how, under a multitude of different driving and climatic conditions, was how the trucks cruise and engine retarder ( Jake brake) could control the vehicles operating parameters better, continuously, than I could, manually.

What we, as a society are witnessing, is the beginning of the end of the, " for hire chauffeur ". Before the advent of the class A license, there was the chauffeurs license. I see local, non union routes to be dissolved first, followed by Line haul operations, then Long haul over the road drivers, finally ending with the dissolution of the Teamster union.

There will also be a somewhat longer transition for intercity delivery and taxicab operations.

At the rate of progression, the conclusion may happen within 20 years or less.

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#13
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Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

10/31/2016 1:17 PM

"One thing I had observed, over several hundred thousand miles behind the wheel, was how, under a multitude of different driving and climatic conditions, was how the trucks cruise and engine retarder ( Jake brake) could control the vehicles operating parameters better, continuously, than I could, manually."

That is a big advantage of having a computerized system: it can 'evaluate conditions' (read sensors) and 'think and react' (compare the sensor readings against reference values stored in the program) so much faster that our 'wetware' minds can.

The new series of car commercials (I forget which make, but I'm not in the market for a new car, so that's a superfluous detail to me right now) where they're showing off all these new features: Back-out parking assist (stops the car if there's cross-traffic), front impact prevention (stops the car if nearing another vehicle's trunk), blind-spot assist (alerts you if Willie Nelson is passing on your left in a convertible VW Bug).

The more anti-collision features that get added, the closer 'normal' cars come to be 'self-driving.' If this keeps up, we'll have the activists who are complaining about the Google self-driving cars driving around in 'crash-resistant' cars that only need one more wire connected to link the GPS navigation to the steering wheel.

---

Going OT here, but speaking of car commercials, one of my favorites is that one where these bystanders were looking at this car driving down the road, and it was changing color and paint styling to match the outfit and personality of the observer, who then saw themselves driving it is it passed by. The last observer was this little girl in a pink tutu; the car started to turn pink, then a jet black version 'burst through' dispersing the pink into a mist. When it passed the girl, in the reflection of the deep-tinted side window we saw her reflection, not as a pink ballerina, but as the Odile, the Black Swan from Swan Lake; black tutu, Black sinister makeup, the works.

I think I like that commercial so much because I've played board games against little girls, and I can say, without reservation, that when given the chance to beat an adult, little girls can be Pure Unadulterated Evil. I'm talking kitten-eating evil; they don't cut you any slack, they capitalize on any weakness, and that cute little giggle they have takes on a whole new meaning when they do it standing over your metaphorical bleeding corpse, smiling innocently as they play double dutch with your intestines.

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#14
In reply to #13

Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

11/01/2016 8:57 AM

Not to be off topic.

In response to your second paragraph: it sounds like your 11 year old niece just beat your butt in a serious game of monopoly.

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#17
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Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

11/01/2016 12:56 PM

"In response to your second paragraph: it sounds like your 11 year old niece just beat your butt in a serious game of monopoly."

She was 12, unrelated to me, and it was one of those minatures wargames, one with the clicking dials under the figure's base.

My units got pinned in a narrow pass, and she GLEEFULY steamrollered one after the other with a unit I could have beat if I had room to maneuver and get more attackers in at once. It was like watching a cat torment a bird with a broken wing. When I called her on being evil, she just looked me in the eye and giggled.

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#22
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Re: Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

11/01/2016 7:51 PM

Sounds like she pulled a kasserine pass on you.

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