The world is thrilled by autonomous cars, but there’s another useful — albeit less exciting — form of transport that will probably drive itself sooner: The big rig. Now, a team of ex-Google engineers is trying its hand at building autonomous trucks.
The start-up Otto has just come out of stealth-mode, reports Mark Harris on Backchannel. Among the team are Anthony Levandowski, who worked on Google’s first self-driving car, and Lior Ron, who used to be a prominent figure at Google Maps. They’re joined by members from Apple, Tesla and Here Maps, too.
Self-driving trucks are easier to turn into a commercial reality than their family car equivalent. That’s mainly because they stick to highways which are easier to navigate than complex city streets. The company has already fitted out three brand-new Volvo big rigs with a variety of sensors, including lidar, radar and plain-old cameras. Harris reports that they have already been tested on roads in Nevada.
Otto claims that the self-driving kit it’s making is designed to be fitted to new trucks, not old ones, and promises that it will be affordable. Even so, it will have some competition: While most media coverage centres on self-driving cars, there’s plenty of work being done by the likes of Peloton and Daimler on self-driving trucks, and a convoy of the things already drove across Europe earlier this year.