Ex-Google mastermind challenges large automated truck players
A new U.S. startup takes on traditional OEMs in the race to put autonomous trucks on the road.
It’s a multi-billion dollar market and it’s up for grabs. Many experts expect commercial vehicles to be the first driverless vehicles to hit our roads in large numbers. Established OEMs like Volvo or Mercedes are already investing heavily when it comes to testing the technology. Now one of the founders of Google’s self-driving car plans to stir things up by entering the fray with a new startup. It aims to retrofit tractor trailers with autonomous driving technology.
According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski left the company in January to launch the Silicon Valley startup Ottomotto LLC. Levandowski was one of the masterminds behind Google’s self-driving car program. His new company counts former Google, Apple and Tesla software engineers among its 41 employees, the WSJ reports.
While traditional OEMs are developing new automated trucks, Ottomotto plans to build hardware into existing 18-wheelers, enabling them to operate driverlessly on highways. Levandowski said he hopes to sell the system to truck fleets soon. The gear would allow trucks to travel without a driver using the pedals or steering wheel, he told the WSJ.
Commercial vehicles are often considered trailblazers for automated driving. Fleet operators could benefit enormously through reduced fuel consumption and more predictable transport times. It is unclear what this would mean for the profession of truck driving, though. There are more than 3 million truck drivers in the USA alone – and many of them could lose their jobs.