Although the technology in self-driving trucks is in its early stages of development, breakthroughs have become increasingly recurrent. Self-driving highway stunts from companies in the self-driving truck industry were reported recently through mainstream media.
Plus.ai recently debuted its current progress in this technology by delivering 40,000 pounds of butter across the united states. The journey took three days to complete, which started from Tulare, California, and ending at Quakertown, Pennsylvania.
Before Plus.ai’s presentation, Embark also performed their highway stunt by traveling coast to coast from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Florida. The journey took five days traveling approximately 24000 miles. This show served as a follow-up demonstration from their previous test route that moved from Los Angeles to El Paso, Texas.
Within these demonstrations of progress, the self-driving truck industry opened the public’s eyes that autonomous vehicles are attainable. Self-driving trucks are no longer a futuristic dream.
Don’t get too excited, though. The self-driving truck industry is still far from developing fully autonomous vehicles. There are five levels of autonomous driving, and this generation’s trucking tech still sits far away from nirvana.
The most developed self-driving trucks still require a backup driver who will quickly take over when an unexpected issue arises. These backup drivers also need to take over when the journey reaches urban areas where driving becomes tricky.
Embark, the leading company in autonomous truck technology, confirmed that their continuous development is about to reach level four. Everyone interested in the industry and niche looks forward to their next exhibit.
What Are The Five Levels Of Autonomous Driving?
Since autonomous driving technology is still at its cradle, there is currently no fully automated driving vehicle operating on the road. We may have come across vehicle units with self-parking capabilities, lane and brake assistance, etc. but they still belong to the category of partially autonomous vehicles.
Self-driving vehicles have varying amounts of automation, which with five classification levels.
Obviously, at level 0, there is no driving automation. The driver performs all tasks such as steering, accelerating, or slowing down.
At level 1, the vehicle controls several specific systems. It merely assists the driver, and that’s the best it can do. Some of the most common highlights of a car with level one automation include cruise control and lane-keep assist.
Cruise control keeps a secure distance between succeeding cars. Lane-keep assist, on the other hand, pushes the car back in the lane upon deviation. Although these features assist the driver to a great extent, the driver is still in control.
Level 2 provides partial automation. Although the system allows the driver to disengage on some tasks, the driver is still responsible for operating safety functions and monitoring the environment. Some examples of technology with level two automation are tesla’s autopilot, and Audi’s traffic jam assist.
At this level, vehicles drive themselves on ideal conditions and with limitations. Unlike at level two, the unit monitors its environment using multiple sensors. From the examples given above, Company Embark and Plus.ai have already shown progress at this level.
Vehicles of this level can drive autonomously on highways. Although drivers remain completely hands-off, they need to take over anytime the road conditions become problematic.
The vehicle is fully autonomous in most environments and road conditions at this degree. The self-driving truck industry is in constant development to attain this level of automation.
Other issues to consider are the restrictions and regulations the federal government will enforce on this level of technology. If there were fewer legal obstacles, the public would see driverless cars very soon.
Level five is where everyone can find fully automated vehicles. Self-driving trucks and cars of this magnitude can intelligently maneuver through all kinds of environments. Trucks with these capacities require no human intervention. Moreover, automobiles at this level will no longer require steering wheels and pedals.
At level 5, motor units received control of all aspects, including safety-critical tasks. Drivers input the destination and leave the rest to the vehicle.
Having this level of technology would bring about a significant difference in the world. There are so many possibilities this level of technology can change humanity’s way of life.
Imagine passenger vehicles such as buses and taxis with the ability to carry people and drive on their own. For fleet companies that are currently facing a shortage of commercial drivers, autonomous truck technology would work as a great solution. There are countless applications for this technology once it is fully developed.
Current Self-Driving Vehicle Extent: Level 3
Going back to the self-driving truck highway stunts performed by Embark and Plus.ai, these serve as examples of progress in the level 3 classification. These trucks showed that they could travel autonomously on the highway.
Both self-driving trucks showcased the ability to monitor their environment using sophisticated sensors called Light Dependent Resistor (LDR). LDRs use lasers to measure distances. Furthermore, it also uses multiple cameras to create three-dimensional information.
While GPS tells the position of the vehicle, lasers, radars, and cameras provide more accurate data on the vehicle’s environment. It allows the truck to avoid obstacles and maneuver accurately on lanes.
Having multiple sensors allow the vehicle to obtain accurate info about its position. Merely having one measure doesn’t provide precise and reliable information.
How Does The Autonomous Driving System Work?
The current self-driving system gathers data from multiple sensors and filters out signals to remove the sound and obtain reliable information. Having an ideal environment allows the vehicle to pick good quality information, thus making the journey safer. The system will use the details it collected to make decisions based on detected obstacles and viable routes it finds.
Companies with self-driving trucks rely on industrial solutions like Samsara to help automate tracking of hours, prevent accidents, reduce fuel consumption, discover better routes, and improve the quality of their services. While level 5 autonomous trucks aren’t born yet, such solutions to varying business needs would help increase the efficiency and sustainability of the fleet company’s operations.
It is still a long way before fully autonomous vehicles introduce themselves on the road. The self-driving truck industry is continuously developing and progressing to get to the level of full automation. It is attainable, but don’t expect it to happen in a few months.
Besides the current technology, autonomous self-driving trucks may also face legal issues. This mandate may revolve around the fact that current liability laws won’t apply to autonomous vehicles. Still, it makes one of the problems humanity can quickly get out of for the sake of technology and innovation.