December 7, 2022

Self-driving vehicle reality check after $160 billion spent

And in fact, Aurora’s focus on self-driving trucking represents a shift in the industry. Argo AI based its business model on passenger cars and had nothing to fall back on as the timeframe for bringing self-driving to market grew longer.

The Volvo Group, which plans to use Aurora’s technology in self-driving Class 8 trucks, believes there is a viable route to commercialization that can circumvent the city driving that has become the albatross of the industry.

“In order not to fall into this trap, we decided to focus on three vertical markets,” Jaeger said.

Volvo sees a first activity in the autonomy of the quarrying and mining industry. Jaeger said the industry has high injury and fatality rates, forcing humans to be removed from its operations.

Mines and quarries are confined areas with limited traffic and far fewer random events for an AV to process.

Volvo Autonomous Solutions already provides autonomous trucking at the Bronnoy Kalk mine in Norway. Several self-driving Volvo FH trucks traverse a 3-mile stretch through narrow tunnels between the limestone mine and the crusher. For now, Volvo is operating autonomous shifts with a safety driver in the cab.

Volvo Autonomous Solutions is also working with Holcim Switzerland to test and develop Volvo’s Tara autonomous transport system at a limestone quarry in Siggenthal, Switzerland.

Ports and logistics centers are other areas where Volvo sees early use of self-driving trucks.

In one project, Volvo is using self-driving trucks to move containers from a DFDS logistics center in Gothenburg, Sweden, to a container terminal near the port. The trucks are connected to a cloud-based control tower. The ride requires a bit of open-road driving, but it’s limited, with the speed not exceeding 25 mph, Jaeger said. And although they are busier than the mines, the ports also have restricted traffic.

Still, “it’s a big leap forward in complexity,” Jaeger said.

The third stage is hub-to-hub road transport, which other players in the trucking industry are also pursuing.

“What you see here is that there is no last mile vehicle,” Jaeger said.

Daimler sees autonomous hub-to-hub freight operations as the first significant open-road use of autonomous vehicles.

In this model, a human driver transports a load to an adjacent road junction. A large autonomous platform takes over and transports the freight to a similar hub hundreds of miles away, where another human takes the freight to its final destination.

Daimler’s Daum said hubs should be close to the highway.

“It’s a finished mile, which you can map exactly. You can see the turns adapt and the junctions are protected by traffic lights,” he said. Automotive News.

Embark Trucks Inc., a self-driving technology company in San Francisco, is working with Alterra Property Group and Ryder to create a nationwide network of hubs. Its goal is to operate fully driverless trucks by 2024.

Daum said the hub-to-hub concept has a longer but still “reasonable” lead time. Within a decade, he expects to see an American hub system for autonomously transporting goods over long distances on highways.

But venturing outside this defined network risks “infinite” dangers, Daum said.

Pete Bigelow contributed to this report.