PITTSBURGH, PA and WASHINGTON, DC — Locomation and the Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity (PTIO) have announced that Locomation has joined the coalition and its mission to study the impact of autonomous vehicles (AVs) on the workforce to ensure that deployment of the technology will improve quality of life and economic opportunity for all Americans.

“Locomation supports the work of PTIO aimed at creating opportunities and benefits for U.S workers from autonomous vehicle solutions,” said Finch Fulton, vice president of policy and strategy at Locomation. “We are an all-American company committed to working proactively to ensure autonomous trucking technologies can work for the American worker, not instead of the American worker. We look forward to bringing our human-centric approach to PTIO and to working with other leading companies and associations to understand the autonomous vehicle – workforce nexus and prepare workers for the technology, thereby strengthening our domestic supply chains and our global competitiveness.”

PTIO is led by its members at the American Trucking Associations, Daimler, FedEx, Ford, Lyft, Toyota Motor North America, UPS, Waymo, and May Mobility. The organization is working together with policymakers, industry, academia, and other interested stakeholders to identify policies and programs that ensure the entire workforce is prepared for the deployment of AVs and will ultimately benefit from this exciting technology, as well as ensure America and its workforce leads in development, manufacture, and deployment of this exciting technology.

“Locomation’s human-guided approach to autonomous vehicle technology and focus on its value for the transportation industry and economy as a whole is aligned with our mission and objectives,” said Kathryn Branson, executive director of PTIO. “We welcome their perspective and input and look forward to working with them to effectively prepare the U.S. workforce for this highly beneficial innovation.”

About Locomation
Locomation is a leading provider of autonomy solutions for the trucking industry. On the most efficient path to safe deployment of full autonomy, our technology delivers immediate substantial economic value. The company’s first product combines human-guided autonomous relay convoys with custom freight network optimization services, enabling its customers to increase operational efficiency and grow their businesses profitably. With a contract signed with Wilson Logistics, Locomotion is in production to fulfill the world’s first commercial autonomous trucking purchase order and have their first trucks on the road in late 2022. Pittsburgh-based Locomation was founded in 2018 by autonomy experts from Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center and trucking industry leaders. Learn more at https://locomation.ai

 About PTIO

Launched in June 2018, PTIO is led by its members at the American Trucking Associations, Daimler, FedEx, Ford, Lyft, Toyota Motor North America, UPS, Waymo, May Mobility, and Locomation — leading companies and associations that are working together with government, educators, and other stakeholders to examine the opportunities and challenges of AV deployment and identify policies and programs that ensure our entire workforce can benefit from the adoption of AV technology.  For more information, visit www.ouravfuture.org.

Autonomous vehicles, high-tech jobs in rural Utah

By Kade Garner, ABC 4 Salt Lake City

UTAH (ABC4) – When you think of high-tech jobs, do you also think about Silicon Valley in California? Well, one company is breaking that mold by developing self-driving vehicles in rural Utah.

Tucked away in the mountains of northern Utah in a town called Peterboro is Autonomous Solutions, Inc.

“We try to take people out of what Mel (CEO Mel Torrie) calls dull, dirty, and dangerous jobs,” ASI Director of Engineering Brian Stewart explained to ABC4.

Stewart is one of 150 employees at ASI. Like the other employees, he works to make dangerous jobs safe by developing self-driving vehicles.

“We take our core technology and we put it into things like this,” Stewart said while pointing to a robot that looked like something NASA would have on Mars. He continued, “They’re used for military application or for commercial application.”

Over the last 20 years, ASI has automated more than 1,000 vehicles for nine different types of industries, and now has products in six continents across the world.

How do they do it? ASI Software Engineer McKord Harris broke it down in simple terms. He explained, “We use satellite positioning to tell us where the vehicle is, and then we use the electronics on the vehicle to tell it where we want it to go and make sure everything lines up.”

At the end of every project, whether it be a small robot used in policing situations or large mining equipment, there’s always a test run. During the test run, emotions are high. “You know,” Harris said. “You’re nervous. Is it going to do exactly what we’re telling it to do?”

If the test is a success, the vehicle will make its way to its final destination.

Harris recently went to visit a farmer in California who’d received an autonomous tractor. The tractor made easy work tilling up hundreds of acres of land. Harris told ABC4 it’s rewarding to help in feeding the country while also providing some relief to the farmer during a time of labor shortage.

For the engineers, it’s a challenge to keep adapting their technology to work on new vehicles. However, that’s also what makes it exciting.

“You get to work with new technology every day,” Stewart added. “You’re not doing things that have been done before. You’re working with people, you’re working with companies, you’re working with products that are changing so fast. You have to stay on top of it. It’s not slow.”

All the ASI employees who talked to ABC4 said one thing in common: they never imagined they’d find an engineering job of such high caliber in northern Utah, but they’re glad they did.

Along with helping creating safer work environments, ASI has a goal to give back $1 billion for providing STEM education and entrepreneur opportunities for less fortunate children.

Automakers and universities team up to fix AV industry’s talent gap

By Chris Teale, Smart Cities Dive

When the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) at Ohio State University began over 30 years ago, it focused on traditional subjects like the transmissions, noise and vibrations from internal combustion engines, with some attention paid to what was then a growing trend of automotive electronics.

Now, with the advent of autonomous vehicles (AVs), its focus has changed.

“What used to be a predominantly mechanical engineering discipline with some electronics sprinkled in has become an industry that depends on computing power, computer science, electrical and electronic systems and electrochemical energy storage,”  Giorgio Rizzoni, CAR’s director and an OSU mechanical and aerospace engineering professor, said.

The growing emphasis on AVs comes as experts warn of a lack of qualified AV engineers. The dearth of expertise could hamstring the rollout of this much-hyped technology.

“You would think that people would be lining up to work in this area,” said Frank Menchaca, chief growth officer at standards-developing organization SAE International. “But the truth is, there is a relatively small pipeline of people who are equipped to be successful in automated driving.”

To combat that talent gap and grow the workforce of the future, four-year colleges and universities as well as community colleges and industry groups are starting to offer courses in AV engineering, software development and cybersecurity, with the help of industry experts to develop the curricula.

As the AV industry is estimated to skyrocket to a value of $556.67 billion by 2026 — from $54.23 billion in 2019, according to Allied Market Research — industry leaders warn such programs are imperative to ensure that graduates’ skills keep pace with the industry’s rapid rollout.

Evolving education needs

AV education in the academic setting focuses largely on engineering and software development, with automakers and other industry leaders often playing a key role in helping shape programs for students.

CAR is Ohio State’s main research lab for connected and autonomous driving. Among its projects is the EcoCAR, in which student teams compete over four years to re-engineer a Chevrolet Blazer to incorporate AV and electric technologies.

Graduate students also have the opportunity to work alongside some of the manufacturers in the Columbus, Ohio, region, and their thesis projects typically are funded by automakers, Rizzoni said.

The program’s teaching focuses on the trend of automation and intelligence in vehicle technology in addition to energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions. Industry needs and the evolution of driving technology are largely driving that curriculum, Rizzoni said.

“If you were to ask the vice president for research at Ford Motor Company, for example, ‘Where’s Ford going?’ They would tell you: ‘More intelligent mobility, different solutions that involve understanding and analyzing data and responding to it in real time,'” Rizzoni said. “In that sense, we think that our future is where the future of the automotive industry is.”

The College of Charleston is launching a new electrical engineering degree program this fall with a focus on AVs. The initiative will complement its existing systems engineering degree while teaching students how to connect cars with various sensors, design their movements and operate the vehicles autonomously.

Sebastian van Delden, dean of the college’s School of Sciences and Mathematics, said the needs of automakers in the region are driving its offerings as well. Like students at Ohio State, senior students at Charleston will work on a yearlong capstone project alongside Mercedes, Volvo and Bosch, which each have factories in South Carolina.

The degrees can also help graduates who don’t end up working directly with AVs, van Delden said. “Nowadays in factories and other settings, they need people who can wire up, connect and program a variety of [internet of things] devices to implement, design and plan some type of system,” he said. “Graduates will be very good candidates for those types of positions.”

Democratizing job opportunities

Some community colleges and other groups are also getting in on the act.

Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona, launched the first-ever autonomous driving certificate program for truck drivers in 2019, in partnership with self-driving truck company TuSimple.

The 12-credit program teaches students to operate and work with self-driving trucks while building skills in areas such as logistics, IT and automated industrial technology. The program’s introductory class provides a wide view of the AV landscape, including the ethical issues that surround it, like how AVs prioritize lives in a collision. 

Missy Blair, advanced program manager at Pima’s Center for Transportation Training, said about a dozen students are enrolled in the program right now. The program’s first students graduated last fall and are in the hiring process at TuSimple, which prioritizes hiring the center’s graduates.

Other education and training providers — beyond academic institutions — also are looking at how they can enter this field to educate people on AVs.