A self-driving truck, also known as an autonomous truck, or robo-truck, requires no human driver, similar to self-driving cars. Several companies are said to be testing autonomous technology in semi trucks.
As recorded in June 1995 in Popular Science Magazine, self-driving trucks were being developed for combat convoys, whereby only the lead truck would be driven by a human and the following trucks would rely on satellite, an inertial guidance system and ground-speed sensors. Komatsu made the earliest development in Autonomous Trucks testing a fleet of 5 Ultra Class truck of 290 Mt in Codelco Mine Radomiro Tomic in Chile in 2005 then in 2007 was installed the first working fleet in the mine Gabriela Mistral in Chile, also a Codelco property.
Lockheed Martin with funding from the U.S. Army developed an autonomous truck convoying system that uses a lead truck operated by a human driver with a number of trucks following autonomously. Developed as part of the Army's Autonomous Mobility Applique System (AMAS), the system consists of an autonomous driving package that has been installed on more than nine types of vehicles and has completed more than 55,000 hours of driving at speeds up to 64 kilometres per hour (40 mph) as of 2014. As of 2017 the Army was planning to field 100–200 trucks as part of a rapid-fielding program.
Caterpillar Inc. made early developments in 2013 with the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University to improve efficiency and reduce cost at various mining and construction sites. Companies such as Codelco Chilean State Mining Company, Suncor Energy, a Canadian energy company, and Rio Tinto Group were among the first to replace human-operated trucks with driverless commercial trucks run by computers.
Otto, demonstrated their self-driving trucks on the highway before being acquired by Uber in August 2016. In May 2017, San Francisco-based startup Embark announced a partnership with truck manufacturer Peterbilt to test and deploy autonomous technology in Peterbilt's vehicles. Waymo has also said to be testing autonomous technology in trucks, however no timeline has been given for the project.
In April 2016, trucks from major manufacturers including Volvo and Daimler completed a week of autonomous driving across Europe, organized by the Dutch, in an effort to get self-driving trucks on the road. Volvo has also developed its own autonomous trucks, called Vera.
In 2016, Anheuser-Busch Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. joined together and successfully made the first commercial delivery of beer using a self-driving truck. No human action had involved in the driving process and the truck travelled 120 miles. Another big player investing in this technology is Google, through its spin-off Waymo which also delivers freights in Atlanta.
In February 2018, Starsky Robotics, the San Francisco-based autonomous truck company, completed a 7-mile (11 km) fully driverless trip in Florida without a human in the truck, though one was available to take over by remote control. Starsky Robotics became the first player in the self-driving truck game to drive in fully autonomous mode on a public road without a person in the cab.
In July 2018, Uber announced it was shuttering the truck-focused branch of its autonomous vehicles program as part of a reorganization of its Advanced Technologies Group following the fatal Uber autonomous passenger vehicle crash in Tempe, AZ in March 2018. Shortly after Uber shut down its autonomous truck efforts, two autonomous truck startups, Kodiak Robotics and Ike, were announced featuring alumni from the Uber program.
In November 2018, Embark Trucks announced a pilot with national truck fleet Ryder and Frigidaire appliance manufacturer Electrolux to deliver refrigerators via autonomous truck from El Paso, TX to Palm Springs, CA. During the pilot, manually-driven Ryder trucks provided first and last mile delivery while Embark autonomous trucks carried the load as far as 306 miles at a time on I-10.
In May 2019, the company TuSimple announced a contract for a two-week pilot delivering mail for the United States Postal Service. The company planned to run five round trips between Dallas, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona, with two humans on board. The company started in 2015 and already runs daily cargo for customers in Arizona.
As of June 2019, Starsky Robotics became the first company to operate fully unmanned on public highways at 55MPH with nobody in the cab of the truck. Unable to raise additional funding, Starsky shut down operations on March 19, 2020.
In December 2019, Plus.ai conducted the industry's first cross-country commercial freight run using a self-driving truck, carrying 40,000 pounds of butter 2,800 miles for Land O'Lakes from Tulare, CA to Quakertown, PA.
In March 2020, the company TuSimple expanded its freight-hauling pilot program with UPS. Currently, the company run 20 trips a week to haul cargo for UPS between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, and between Phoenix and El Paso, Texas.
In March 2020, Waymo announced the official launch of Waymo Via, which includes the use of autonomous Class 8 trucks for delivery.
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