Daimler Trucks Agrees to Acquire Majority Stake in Torc Robotics to Create Technology Powerhouse for Automated Trucks

How Automated Trucking Will Impact the U.S. Workforce and Economy [Report]

via Trucker.com, March 29, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. — Daimler Trucks, a division in the Daimler Group, the world’s largest manufacturer of heavy and medium trucks, and Torc Robotics, a pioneer in autonomous driving solutions, are joining forces in a one-of-a-kind combination to commercialize highly automated trucks (SAE Level 4) on U.S. roads.

Going beyond an OEM/supplier relationship, the companies signed an agreement Friday for Daimler AG’s subsidiary Daimler Trucks and Buses Holding Inc., to acquire a majority stake in Torc Robotics for an undisclosed sum. Closing of the acquisition is subject to approval from U.S. authorities.

Michael Fleming, CEO of Torc Robotics, Martin Daum, member of the board of management Daimler AG, responsible for trucks and buses, and Roger Nielsen, CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, announced the strategic move at Torc headquarters in Blacksburg, Virginia.

“With the ever-rising demand for road transportation, not the least through e-commerce, there is a strong business case for self-driving trucks in the U.S. market and I believe the fastest path to commercialization for self-driving trucks is in partnership with Daimler Trucks, the OEM market leader,” Fleming said. “This move is in line with our mission of saving lives and represents another major milestone for Torc since crossing the finish line in the DARPA Urban Challenge 12 years ago.”

“Bringing Torc Robotics within the Daimler Trucks family creates a unique and powerful team of innovators to put highly automated trucks on the road. Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics complement each other perfectly in terms of resources, expertise, and skill sets. We are forming the ideal combination between Torc’s expertise on agile software development and our experience in delivering reliable and safe truck hardware,” Daum said. “Together, we will provide a sustainable way for our customers to meet the ever-growing freight demand and benefit both the economy and society,” he said.

“Torc is not a start-up, but one of the world’s most experienced companies for vehicle automation. Torc takes a practical approach to commercialization and offers advanced, road-ready technology, plus years of experience in heavy vehicles. Torc’s Level 4 system has been shown to operate well for both urban and highway driving in rain, snow, fog and sunshine,” Neilsen said.

As part of the overall agreements, the Torc team will work closely with Daimler Trucks’ developers, particularly with the research and development team of Daimler Trucks North America in Portland. Torc will continue to develop its Asimov self-driving software and testing at its Blacksburg facility. At the same time, DTNA will focus on further evolving automated driving technology and vehicle integration for heavy-duty trucks at its Automated Truck Research & Development Center in Portland.

The DTNA team is working on a truck chassis perfectly suited for automated driving, particularly the redundancy of systems needed to provide the maximum level of reliability and safety, Daum said.

Under the agreement, Torc will remain a separate entity retaining its name, team, existing customers, and facilities in Blacksburg. The partnership with Daimler Trucks will enable Torc to expand significantly its team, engage into the trucking market and service its growing customer base in other markets.

In 2015, Daimler’s Freightliner Inspiration Truck obtained the first-ever road license for a partially automated commercial vehicle and the world premiere of the Mercedes-Benz Actros with Highway Pilot took place on public roads.

With Active Drive Assist and Detroit Assurance 5.0 with Active Lane Assist (Freightliner Cascadia), Neilsen noted that Daimler Trucks is the first to bring partially automated driving features (SAE level 2) into series production. The new system can independently brake, accelerate and steer. Unlike systems that only work above a certain speed, Active Drive Assist / Detroit Assurance 5.0 make partially automated driving possible in all speed ranges for the driver, also another first in a series production truck. This revolutionary active lateral and longitudinal assistance package is powered by a new state-of-the art radar and camera fusion system.

Guest Op-Ed: Automated Vehicles and the Future of the American Workforce

Guest Op-Ed: Automated Vehicles and the Future of the American Workforce

via Eno Transportation Weekly, March 28, 2019

The way we move in the US is on the cusp of a revolutionary shift. Due to the exponential speed of advances in automated transportation, federal, state, and local governments in the US are examining its potential effects on our communities, evaluating future needs, and beginning to lay the necessary groundwork to respond to these changes.

Some critical questions businesses are asking themselves – especially those in the transportation sector – are:  1) How will automation affect our existing workers and the future of work, and 2) How can we facilitate the adoption of lifesaving technological advancements while also addressing the fears of those already working in these fields?

At Daimler, parent company of brands Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner, we are helping shepherd the transition to an automated vehicle (AV) future for both the passenger car and heavy duty trucking sectors. And we recognize the need to communicate with and train American workers for the opportunities and challenges that advancing technology may create for them.

That recognition was the driving force behind Daimler’s decision to join the American Trucking Associations, FedEx, Ford, Lyft, Toyota, Uber, and Waymo to form a coalition called the Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity, also known as PTIO. Created in June 2018, PTIO’s stated mission is to advance AV technology, and other transportation innovations, while also nurturing the creation of future opportunities for the American workforce.

In its first nine months, PTIO embarked on a program of open and in-depth conversations focused on what our AV future holds for the American worker, how we can proactively address and communicate the impact this technology may have on jobs, and how we can help shape public policy to ensure that our entire workforce benefits from the adoption of AV technology. To date, we have either met or held listening sessions with public officials and stakeholders in Washington, D.C. and communities throughout the country – Ohio and Indiana, to name a few. More events are planned this year in local communities to gauge potential impacts and plan how we can work together to address medium- and long-term changes.

We know that preparing the workforce for an AV future requires a comprehensive and evidence-based understanding of the interplay between the technology and jobs.  Based on our efforts and interactions to date, PTIO recently released a list of recommended research priorities that identify a set of key questions upon which we believe policymakers and stakeholders should focus future research. Subsequently, our top priority is to identify data-driven policies and programs that will help connect workers with concrete economic opportunities and to advocate for their adoption alongside the rollout of AV technology.

By working together, Daimler and our partners at PTIO are beginning to recognize the opportunities that AV technology will create. It is our aim that American workers will realize a more personally-fulfilling and rewarding economic future alongside the ensuing safer, more efficient, and more environmentally-friendly AV era.

See original article in EnoTrans.org.

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How Automated Trucking Will Impact the U.S. Workforce and Economy [Report]

How Automated Trucking Will Impact the U.S. Workforce and Economy [Report]

via Thomas Net, March 20, 2019

When most people think of self-driving vehicles and automation technology, personal consumer vehicles usually come to mind — such as those popularized by Tesla. However, the trucking industry is forging ahead with various types of automation technology, some of which may be seeing widespread use as early as this year.

With 1.9 million heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers in the U.S. alone as of 2017, what will be in store for the industry’s massive workforce over the coming decade? How will this impact local economies across the country? When and how do governments expect to step in?

How Is the Trucking Industry Using Automation Technology?

The trucking industry is experimenting with much of the same technology currently being testing in self-driving cars for personal use. This includes GPS, cameras, accelerometers and gyroscopes, and radar. Among the most valuable and promising automation tools for truckers are Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensors, which use lasers to map a truck’s surroundings quickly and accurately.

Some truck models already utilize automated features, such as adaptive cruise control, a technology that automatically adjusts a vehicle’s speed based on the objects around it. We may soon see this put to use in commercial applications via a concept called platooning.

Platooning involves linking two or more trucks in a highway setting via a short-range wireless connection. This connection allows the speed and breaking of non-leader trucks to be controlled automatically — and much more quickly and safely than humans would be capable of managing. This means trucks are able to follow one another at very close range, utilizing the aerodynamic benefits of the truck ahead. This substantially reduces the need for fuel while enhancing safety by reducing the risk of rear-end collisions and other accidents.

How and When Will Automation Impact the Trucking Workforce?

As mentioned, some forms of trucking automation are already being put to use, and others are likely to be deployed in the coming months and years. However, we are unlikely to see any major effects on the trucking workforce over the next five to ten years. The timeline, however, will depend on how technology progresses and whether public perception of automated vehicles shifts, according to GAO.

When determining what kind of impact automated trucking will have on the workforce, two key factors will be analyzed: the level of automation achieved and government regulatory decisions. Although it’s easy to envision a sci-fi future, in which trucks transport themselves completely unassisted across the country, it is an unlikely scenario for the near future.

None of the respondents surveyed by GAO were working on full automation technology, but nearly all were working on partial automation, which will still require the use of truck drivers in some capacity.

The forms of automation most companies are currently working on will require drivers to navigate complex urban environments, handle the actual delivery processes, and at least remain present on even highly automated stints of the trip, such as those involving highway driving.

However, because automation may make trucking less stressful and less physically intensive, GAO states that it may also make the profession more enticing to young workers and women. It could also decrease turnover rates, which are currently very high in the trucking industry, with some reports citing rates close to 100%. Plus, because trucking may require less specialized training in the future, the pool of people able to complete the job will grow, and wages may decrease as a result.

However, automation is also likely to increase the number of specialized jobs within the trucking industry, such as tech-savvy mechanical and engineering roles. However, higher automation may reduce the number of drivers needed to staff trucks, but this will largely be dependent on changes to government regulations over the next several years.

How Are Governments Preparing for the Impact of Trucking Automation?

Government feedback will play a key role in how and when partial automation will impact the workforce, in part due to the need for regulatory clarity for testing purposes. As mentioned above, whether or not drivers will need to be present in vehicles during automated periods will be a major factor. If drivers must remain present at all times, of course, more driving jobs will be available.

Other issues concerning the stakeholders interviewed by GAO include all-encompassing federal regulations vs. “patchwork” state regulations, which could make interstate travel inordinately difficult. Similarly, there are currently laws in place that limit the number of hours truckers can drive within a certain time period — right now, that is 11 out of 14 consecutive hours. If drivers are simply present in an automated vehicle, do they still have to abide by this law? Is that time still considered “driving?” Are automated systems confined by the same laws that regulate human drivers?

The Department of Transportation (DOT) oversees all federal transportation safety concerns, including those that apply to commercial trucking and automation. The DOT has hosted listening sessions in both 2017 and 2018 in order to gather feedback for this ongoing rulemaking process. The department has also stated its commitment to updating its reports yearly, in order to provide the most relevant, up-to-date information.

DOT, the Department of Labor (DOL), and local agencies are all working together to prepare for the changes that may result from trucking automation over the next five to ten years, and this includes preparing for potential pockets of mass layoffs in areas where trucking jobs are prevalent. To address this, and help mitigate localize economic effects, educational programs may begin to focus on the specialized skills needed for the trucking industry of tomorrow.

See original article here.

Autonomous Advancements Present Opportunities for Drivers, Experts Say

Autonomous Advancements Present Opportunities for Drivers, Experts Say

via Transport Topics, February 26, 2019

SAN DIEGO — Autonomous mobility experts said that the technology can open up new opportunities for drivers, noting that as progress on greater levels of automation expands over time, drivers will have chances to capitalize on that change.

“There are going to be a lot of situations where we can enhance the capabilities of the driver by providing the information technology,” Jenny Elfsberg, Volvo’s director of the innovation lab for connected vehicles, said during a Feb. 25 panel on autonomous technology here at the Lytx User Group Conference. “I think we should do our best in this industry to make the truck drivers, or the excavator operators, or the bus drivers, become the heroes of the transport society. They can actually move up a little bit.”

“Our view is the driver of the future looks like the driver of today — they’re doing a lot of the same things but in different domains,” added Alden Woodrow, co-founder and CEO of autonomous truck technology developer Ike, which is focused on creating fully autonomous trucks that can operate safely on interstate highways and bring value to fleets. “We are really focused on making the trucking industry better.”

Woodrow outlined a model in which drivers would take loads to drop-off points near interstates, where autonomous trucks would then take over for long stretches of highway. “The approach we want to take is to bring new technology to the industry in a complementary way,” he said. “The highway is very structured. You have access control, there are no stop signs and stoplights, and most of the things are driving in a straight line in the same direction most of the time.”

While Woodrow sees these as factors that could make the case for unmanned trucks on the highway, he sees getting the cargo to those drop points as a long-term role for drivers. “The driving jobs on either end become more like local or regional haul,” he said. “We also want to be complementary for drivers, and quite good for drivers. We want to make the industry more productive.”

“For on-highway, there is a huge benefit” to automation, Elfsberg added. “We all know how boring it is. Driving long distances, it would be really great to just let the machine take over.”

In other applications, such as construction, she noted that automation could bring change to the equipment that companies use.

“For many, many years, dump trucks and haulers have increased in size, because that is the only way to drive efficiently when you have a driver in the cab,” she said. “With automation, we can consider making smaller machines. One huge hauler can be replaced by a bunch of smaller transport solutions. When they get smaller, they can actually be battery-electric.” Elfsberg noted, however, that with all of these advancements must also come an accompanying evolution in connected technology.

A more integrated approach to automated technology is one supported by Ognen Stojanovski, co-founder and CEO of autonomous technology developer Pronto and, along with Woodrow, a veteran of the former autonomous truck developer Otto, which later was acquired by Uber.

While Woodrow and Stojanovski were once colleagues, Stojanovski has a different view of how automated technology will roll out over time. At Pronto, Stojanovski is working toward a more gradual approach, believing that the goal of full automation may be too idealistic.

“The big idea is that it’s not going to be a bunch of unmanned, driverless vehicles on the road criss-crossing long stretches of roads,” he said. “We think there will be some unmanned vehicles, at least initially. They’re going to be sprinkled into a vast ecosystem where it is primarily traditionally driven trucks, or trucks with really advanced driver-assistance technologies. The way we think to actually get there is this mixed model.”

Stojanovski cited steering automation as an example of a technology that could be integrated quickly, and begin paying dividends by helping drivers keep trucks centered in the lane, and even intervene in instances such as medical emergencies.

“Drivers are more inclined to embrace technology if they think they are getting something out of it,” he said.

See original article in Transport Topics

Find additional media coverage on #OurAVFuture here.

PTIO Releases Research Priorities

PTIO Releases Research Priorities

Washington, D.C. — The Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity (PTIO) today released its recommended research priorities for consideration as its members work with policymakers and stakeholders to pursue a comprehensive, evidence-based understanding of the interplay between autonomous vehicles (AVs) and the future of work. The document identifies a set of key questions on which PTIO believes stakeholders should focus future research.

“PTIO’s top priority is to establish an objective, data-driven understanding of the impact autonomous vehicle technology will have on the workforce so we can begin preparing workers for this transition,” said PTIO Executive Director Maureen Westphal. “Since its launch in June 2018, PTIO has solicited the expertise, concerns, and ideas of a diverse group of stakeholders to provide guidance to policymakers as they plan and execute future research.”


Summary of PTIO’s Research Priorities:

Led by its members – including the American Trucking Associations, Daimler, FedEx, Ford, Lyft, Toyota Motor North America, Uber, and Waymo – PTIO’s mission is to advance AV technology in ways that improve the quality of life and economic opportunity for all Americans. Ensuring the workforce realizes the economic gains and other benefits of this new technology requires sound and proactive public policies based on an accurate understanding of our AV future. To this end, PTIO urges policymakers and other interested stakeholders to promote and support research initiatives in the areas outlined below.

  • Examining the Workforce Transition

While various existing bodies of research predict that AVs will have a gradual – rather than immediate – effect on the workforce, questions persist as to how that will play out over time, how current occupations are likely to be affected, and what new occupations are likely to emerge.

  • Understanding Training Needs and Delivery

As a country, we need to understand how to prepare incumbent and new workers for AV-related careers by identifying how government, industry, educators, and other stakeholders can partner to deliver effective training and placement services for these emerging opportunities.

  • Studying Quality of Life Improvements

AV technology represents an opportunity to improve working conditions inherent in some driving occupations and may also help empower groups who experience transportation-related career limitations. While some preliminary research has been conducted in this area, further study is needed to fully assess what these enhancements will mean for job creation and the labor market as a whole.

To view PTIO’s Research Priorities, click here.


PTIO Interested in Working with Congress on Autonomous-Vehicle Technology

PTIO Interested in Working with Congress on Autonomous-Vehicle Technology

via Transportation Today, March 5, 2019

By Melina Druga

The Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity (PTIO) sent letters last week to Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chairman of House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, expressing a desire to work with Congress on autonomous-vehicle (AV) technology research and related policy initiatives.

PTIO autonomous-vehicle

© Shutterstock

The widespread deployment of AV technology is expected to change the economy and potentially the workforce, the letter said.  Changes may not impact communities in the same way or at the same time.

PTIO supports innovation and common-sense AVs adoption, the letter said.

“PTIO is committed to developing a well-rounded understanding of the implications that AVs will have on the future of work,” the letter said.  “Our top priority is to promote evidence-based and data-driven policies and programs that will help connect workers with AV-related economic opportunities and help ensure that all Americans benefit from the transition to our AV future.”

The letter was signed by Hilary M. Cain, PTIO chairwoman, and The American Trucking Associations, Daimler, FedEx, Ford, Lyft, Toyota Motor North America, Uber and Waymo.

Founded last year, PTIO is committed to advancing AV technology to improve the quality of life and economic opportunity of Americans.

See original article in Transportation Today

View additional media coverage on the transition to #OurAVFuture here.

PTIO Calls for Congressional Focus on Workforce Issues Related to AV Technology

Washington, D.C.— The Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity (PTIO) today delivered letters to the chairs and ranking members of congressional committees encouraging engagement on research and related policy initiatives concerning autonomous vehicle (AV) technology and the U.S. workforce.

The letters, signed by the founding members of the PTIO – including the American Trucking Associations, Daimler, FedEx, Ford, Lyft, Toyota Motor North America, Uber, and Waymo – urge House and Senate committees of jurisdiction to consider workforce issues related to AV technology as they continue working across their respective legislative agendas — including surface transportation reauthorization and higher education act reauthorization. Below is an excerpt from the letters:

Comprised of leaders in mobility and logistics, PTIO supports innovation in the transportation industry and the common-sense adoption of AVs. We also recognize, however, that widespread deployment of AV technology is likely to bring changes to our economy and may impact our workforce. These changes and impacts may affect communities across the country in different ways and at different times.

The transition from traditional vehicles to AVs will not happen overnight. This affords policymakers, industry leaders, workforce development providers, the educational community, and other stakeholders the opportunity to work collaboratively and effectively to prepare for the changes on the horizon. PTIO is committed to developing a well-rounded understanding of the implications that AVs will have on the future of work. Our top priority is to promote evidence-based and data-driven policies and programs that will help connect workers with AV-related economic opportunities and help ensure that all Americans benefit from the transition to our AV future.

To read the letters from PTIO to congressional committees, click here.

To learn more about PTIO, visit OurAVFuture.org and follow @OurAVFuture.