“Unmanned” Semi-Truck Test Completed, Company Promises More To Come
Vero Beach, Florida – Remote-controlled autonomous truck company, Starsky Robotics, successfully tested an unmanned run along an almost 10-mile route in Florida on June 16, according to an announcement on Tuesday by the company’s CEO.
Stefan Seltz-Axmacher, Starsky’s CEO, made the announcement in a blogpost lauding the company’s achievement.
The unmanned test was conducted along a 9.4-mile route on the Florida Turnpike about 50 miles west of Vero Beach.
Seltz-Axmacher said the truck successfully navigated a rest area, merged onto the highway, changed lanes and kept a speed of 55 mph.
A remote operator located in an office in Jacksonville, Florida, approximately 200 miles from the test site, guided the truck on its first and last mile, which was approximately 0.2 miles.
“It went so smoothly that few of the other road users realized that they were a part of making history,” Seltz-Axmacher wrote.
The company released a video (below) revealing how the test was conducted.
Seltz-Axmacher didn’t just declare the successful test a victory for Starsky, he pronounced it as a momentous milestone for the future of autonomous trucking.
“This isn’t just a massive accomplishment for Starsky, but for the broader autonomy industry,” he said.
The CEO said a key to Starsky’s rapid emergence above other autonomous truck start up companies is its recognition that a human driver needs to remain involved in the process even without being inside the cab of the semi.
He recently told Trucks.com, “We believe that humans are far better at navigating many of the nuances of driving than even the most advanced computer systems.”
Earlier this month, Starsky said it is seeking to hire 100 professional truck drivers in an effort to find 25 skilled enough to operate its semi-trucks from a remote location.
In a blogpost dated June 10, Seltz-Axmacher said, “Right now, to grow our fleet, we need to convince notoriously fickle drivers to join us.”
The successful test is only the beginning Seltz-Axmacher wrote.
“Unmanned tests will go from once a quarter to once a month to once a week to every day,” Axmacher’s blogpost states.
“We’ll expand the size of the fleet, increase the driving conditions where we can operate safely, and eventually come to be the most reliable driver in your rearview mirror. ”
Teaming Up With “Most Recognizable” Mega-Carriers
In the meantime, Starsky will continue to operate its regular fleet of 36 semi-trucks.
In the June 10 blogpost, Seltz-Axmacher said Starsky was proud to be working with some of the largest and most successful trucking companies in America.
“We’ve teamed up with some of the most recognizable companies in the industry, including Schneider Logistics,” he wrote.
He revealed that Starsky’s fleet is now hauling 100 loads per month for the mega-carrier.
“Schneider has a fine-tuned demand-generating organization that could always use more capacity,” he said. “We provide capacity where they need it so Schneider can service more of their customers’ freight.”
It’s not just Schneider that sees the opportunity to reduce labor costs and increase operational efficiencies that autonomous truck makers are promising.
Fellow autonomous truck startup company, TuSimple, recently successfully completed a two-week test with the United States Postal Service (USPS) delivering mail from Phoenix, AZ to Dallas, TX.
TuSimple executives have stated it is their goal to begin replacing long-haul truck drivers next year.
As for Starsky, Seltz-Axmacher said his goal is to begin deploying unmanned autonomous trucks on U.S. roadways next year.
He hopes to have at least 25 autonomous trucks in operation in “early 2020.”
Read more of our coverage of autonomous trucking news HERE.