Trucking Tech: Watch how a $30k retrofit makes an autonomous truck

A tech start-up is betting on an autonomous truck hitting the road in the U.S. —and soon.

The former Google engineers at Otto designed a $30,000 kit that can retrofit semi-trucks with new autonomous driving technology.

The autonomous truck package includes extra cameras, radar, and lights sensors.

A computer gathers all of that information, adds very detailed mapping data, and makes real-time driving decisions.

Otto says it conducted tests with two trucks on I-5 and Highway 101 in California, with minimal driver intervention.

The trucks could stay in one lane, and maintain a set speed, slowing or stopping as necessary. For now, the self-driving trucks still have a human driver, plus backup braking and power steering systems.

It’s an interesting idea, one that could have big implications for the trucking industry—and for road safety.

Although semi-trucks drive just 5.6% of all vehicle miles, they are responsible for 9.5% of highway crash fatalities.

The company is busy retrofitting a third autonomous truck, and says it plans to keep testing a semi-truck a week for the next few months.

Thoughts on autonomous semi-trucks, or other trucking technology?

Tell me on Twitter – @KevinColuccio

** In October 2016, Otto completed the world’s first shipment by an autonomous truck. There was no driver in place for the 120-mile trip.

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Large trucks have a high, wide gap between the truck’s front and rear tires.

In this dangerous space, 50% of the deaths from truck and bicycle collisions occur.

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