NC A&T Shows Off New Self-Driving Vehicles

By Zyneria Byrd, Spectrum News 1

GREENSBORO, NC — North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University unveiled a fleet of new self-driving vehicles for a new research pilot program.

Students, faculty, staff and community members can take the shuttles from campus to downtown Greensboro.

The fleet is made up of three self-driving shuttles that go no faster than 25 mph, a self-driving van and two regular sedans.

The shuttles can perform all driving tasks under specific circumstances, and a human driver can override and take control of the car. The cars are in compliance with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, the university said.

The purpose for the program is to bring autonomous vehicles to public and rural transportation.

“There are a lot of companies working on autonomous vehicles, said Dr. Ali Karimoddini, Professor and Director, CR2C2 Regional University Transportation Center at North Carolina A&T.

He said not many companies are working to use selfdriving vehicles for public transportation and rural transportaion.

“This is the gap that needs more effort and attention. And that’s what our research team is focused to address this gap,” he said.

After the pilot program, the research team will go over feedback from riders to make tweaks to the research to make the autonomous vehicles an even safer ride.

The autonomous vehicle pilot program will be open to the public on weekdays from Sept. 19 to Oct. 13th, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The two stops on this one-mile ride will begin at the Harold L. Martin Sr. Engineering Research and Innovation Complex to the Miriam P. Brenner Children’s Museum.

MnDOT Eyes Autonomous Vehicles to Close Transportation Gaps, Improve Safety

By Catharine Richert and Megan Burks, MPRNEWS

When you hear “autonomous vehicles,” you might think of big tech and Tesla. But the state thinks opportunity.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Connected and Automated Vehicles Director, Tara Olds, says she sees the technology as a chance to fix some persistent transportation problems in the state. Olds has helped oversee three pilot projects — in Rochester, Minn., White Bear Lake, Minn. and now Grand Rapids, Minn. — to explore how autonomous vehicles can improve road safety and access to transportation.

The active Grand Rapids project, goMARTI, is designed to give people with disabilities more options and independence by running in the evening and night. Existing services only run during the day.

Olds joined All Things Considered Thursday to share what she’s learning and her vision for autonomous vehicles in the state.

I want to start out with this title of yours: Connected and Automated Vehicles Director. Talk to me a little bit more about the ‘connected‘ part of your title. What does that refer to?

Connected is really looking at how all areas of transportation can connect to things. How can cars connect to one another? How can other vehicles connect to people walking on the street? How might they be able to use information from our roadway signs, or be able to understand what our signal is saying? Is it a green light, or is it a red light? All of these things allow for vehicles to have a better understanding of [their] surrounding, and also really enhances safety.

You have a project in Grand Rapids that’s meant to address another problem, which is access to transportation. Tell us more about that project. 

In this community in particular, a number of folks that use mobility devices such as wheelchairs, don’t have the same ability to get around their community due to limited transportation options. And so we were able to use this as a supplement, by operating at different hours than the other services that were offered. So it’s now allowing folks to move around their community in the evening and in the nighttime, allowing them to be more connected to people and have a little bit more autonomy. But I will note that the technology doesn’t always work 100 percent of the time, and that’s why we continue to test it.

So I’m based in Rochester and we had an autonomous vehicle in our city’s downtown for about a year. People were a bit confused about it. They didn’t totally know what it was for, or whether it was safe. So how much public education goes into launching these types of programs?

So that was our project that we called the Med City Mover. That was our first public research demonstration project, so we learned a lot, both from a technology side but also how we can engage with communities.

We had another project that recently just ended in White Bear Lake called Bear Tracks, and it was another shuttle. [Because of what we learned in Rochester, we had] a little bit more community involvement to help educate folks in the area and help us understand where they see opportunities best fit for this.

Both the Med City Mover and Bear Tracks are known as low speed autonomous vehicles. So they operate at, I’d say, a maximum speed of around 12 miles per hour. But sometimes it was operating as low as 3 to 7 miles per hour, depending on what the environment was. It also came to a number of stops in the roadway due to things like leaves [in the roadway], different weather conditions, or even steam rising from manholes, where the sensors were detecting that as a potential obstacle. And so these were designed to be incredibly safe and, with that being said, they kind of create a disruption.

We’ve heard a lot of folks who didn’t like how slow they were. We understand that and recognize that perhaps a downtown urban environment might not be the right place for these vehicles. It might be something more on like a dedicated pathway, where these don’t have the same interruption.

What role do you see Minnesota playing as these technologies develop? 

I think one of the biggest opportunities we have is to really look at how winter weather plays a role in this. So much of the testing, so much of the companies [developing autonomous vehicles] are in warm weather states. But Minnesota, along with a number of other Midwest states, has a lot of snow and a lot of cold weather. And quite frankly, we really are encouraging those partners to come and test here in our state, because we believe that if they’re creating transportation solutions that will work here in the summer months, we’d like to see them work all times of the year.

Additionally, we’d like to see how technology can be used in all parts of the state, not just our urban downtown environments, by looking at how they can be used on gravel roadways.

What responsibility do state and other public agencies have in helping to develop these technologies that companies stand to profit from? 

The reason that I like to be in this field and really play a role at the state in it is to ensure that the changes that we create for our transportation system really are addressing the needs of our people, not just creating new shiny technologies.

Phoenix is Emerging as the City of the Future

By Jessica Boehm, Axios

Phoenix is having a moment.

  • Recent major investments in computer chip manufacturing and electric and autonomous vehicles have made it the overnight darling of the U.S. innovation elite.

Why it matters: The broad attention is showing the world what local leaders have spent the past half-century trying to prove: This desert city can be a major player in global tech and manufacturing.

State of play: Arizona has attracted more semiconductor investment since 2020 than any other U.S. state — driven mainly by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.’s $40 billion facilities in north Phoenix.

  • Semiconductors are used in just about every electronic device — including electric and autonomous cars, fields in which Phoenix is also thriving.

Waymo has been testing its self-driving vehicles in metro Phoenix since 2017.

  • It recently doubled its local ride-hailing service area to cover 180 square miles, the largest fully autonomous service area in the world.
  • Five EV manufacturers have set up shop in Arizona since 2016, per the Arizona Commerce Authority.

How it happened: Government and business leaders pledged to diversify Phoenix’s construction-based economy after it collapsed during the 2008 housing crash.

  • They formed the Arizona Commerce Authority, offered incentives and relaxed regulations to lure new companies.

Yes, but: Those moves were built on the back of decades of groundwork, strategic investments — and maybe some dumb luck too.

Flashback: Metro Phoenix was home to several U.S. Air Force and Navy training bases during World War II, which made it a natural fit for post-war military manufacturing.

  • Motorola arrived in 1949, becoming the area’s first semiconductor facility.
  • Intel followed, opening its first fabrication plant in the area in 1980.
  • They attracted chemical suppliers, engineering outfits and other skilled manufacturing companies to metro Phoenix.

Meanwhile: The area has invited auto companies to test their products here for decades.

  • General Motors, Goodyear, Ford, Chrysler and others established proving grounds on the outskirts of town in the 1940s and 1950s.
  • Many still exist and are now used to test electric and autonomous vehicles.

What’s next: Homegrown innovation.

  • Intel has been around long enough to see some of its engineers leave and start their own ventures. For example: Footprint, a Gilbert, Arizona-based company designing alternatives to plastic food packaging.
  • Venture capitalists are finally taking the city’s startup scene seriously. In 2015, Arizona companies secured $396 million in VC money, per PitchBook. By 2018, that number had ballooned to $2.5 billion — though investments have slowed since.

Reality check: How far Phoenix’s national star rises depends on the city confronting some daunting challenges.

  • It’s facing big city problems like housing affordability for the first time — plus the increasingly dire challenge of water security.

Opinion: Autonomous Trucks Will Boost Safety While Cutting Costs for California Businesses

By Paul Cramer, Times of San Diego

More than 12,250 victims were killed or injured in motor vehicle crashes in my home county of Riverside in 2020. That’s not just a sobering statistic; it is a stark reminder of lost loved ones and members of our community.

Nearly 10% of California crashes involve a truck, and 1 in 3 long-haul truck drivers experience a serious crash in their career. As a small business owner, I’m concerned about our state’s unsafe roads and optimistic about the future of autonomous trucks for Riverside County and the rest of the state.

Regrettably, fearmongering and misinformation has California lawmakers considering putting the brakes on autonomous trucks in the Golden State with Assembly Bill 316. We should not preemptively ban AV trucks, but instead encourage California safety officials to put regulations and oversight in place to ensure the highest levels of safety for this new technology.

AV trucks do not get sleepy or distracted. They have 360-degree vision, seeing farther and more clearly, day or night, than human truck drivers. By removing fatal human errors, AV trucks stand to radically improve safety on our roads.

At the same time, businesses like mine are facing labor shortages, historic inflation and strangled supply chains. Rather than accept this as fate, AV trucks can pave the way for sustained prosperity and resiliency. The United States is short 80,000 truck drivers, according to the American Trucking Associations — a number set to double within the decade.

Deploying autonomous trucks can help alleviate the driver shortage by filling in the existing gaps, without replacing jobs. If the state indefinitely requires every AV truck have a human safety operator onboard, California will only be exacerbating the shortage, rather than unlocking the technology to bolster our supply chain resiliency.

Restricting autonomous trucks doesn’t just hurt the bottom lines of California businesses; every Californian is impacted when businesses and consumers don’t get essentials on time. Prices go up; shelves remain bare; items get crossed off menus. Business owners have been trying to cope with the supply chain crisis for nearly 3 years at this point.

Many autonomous truck developers are based right here in California, supporting jobs and communities in the state. Why would we turn this economic development away while nearby states like Arizona and Texas are welcoming them and securing the economic and safety benefits?

In addition to bolstering the state’s supply chain and helping to raise total economic output for all industries, autonomous trucks can also help us achieve our state’s climate goals. Autonomous trucks can help reduce fuel consumption by at least 10% due to their model driving behavior.

It’s bad enough that California’s regulators have yet to establish the safety regime to permit AV trucks to drive in the state. Right now, an autonomous truck could drive from the Port of Savannah, Ga., all the way across the country through seven states before needing to stop at the Colorado River — unable to cross into California. Yet AB 316 would prematurely skip ahead of the DMV and Highway Patrol’s regulations, permanently kneecapping this innovation’s opportunities.

California has long been an incubator of innovation. To radically improve safety, the state must harness our technological prowess and leadership to reflect today’s safety and economic realities, boosting our agriculture, manufacturing, retail and other industries throughout the state. To truly initiate the changes that Californians need, state lawmakers must unlock — not obstruct– autonomous trucks once the appropriate regulations are in place to ensure the safety of everyone.

There needs to be a start to this innovation and California needs to once again lead innovation for the rest of the country.

Autonomy and Road Safety: California Must Choose the Road to Travel

By Tara Andringa, the Orange County Register

For the past two decades, California has been the global leader in autonomous vehicle technology, revolutionizing how we transport people and goods. The state has developed a robust system for overseeing the development, testing, and deployment of highly automated vehicles; the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which regulates the safety of this technology, has issued permits to 40 manufacturers through the most developed AV regulatory process of any state.

Autonomous vehicles can make California’s roads safer, reduce emissions, and bolster the state’s economy through the creation of new jobs. AVs have created thousands of jobs for people of all education and skill levels, and manufacturers are creating pathways to high-tech jobs that do not require four-year degrees. The autonomous trucking sector alone could increase the state’s economic activity by $7.9 billion in 2019 gross domestic product (GDP), according to a study from the Silicon Valley Leadership Group Foundation.

As AV technology matures, we are at a crossroads of determining how we can ensure the societal potential that the technology offers — such as greater road safety and new transportation options for people who can’t drive a car — while making sure we are ensuring that we are introducing these new technologies in a thoughtful, deliberate and safe manner.

The California Senate is considering legislation this week, which passed the Assembly recently, that would prohibit the operation of driverless trucks in the state by requiring every autonomous truck to also have a human driver inside. Sponsors of the bill argue that it is about improving road safety — but opponents point out that banning new safety technologies will reinforce the status quo of deaths on our highways and would overturn years of progress by California’s top safety regulators overseeing the safe integration of driverless trucks.

Advancing road safety in California

Every year, we see too many tragic injuries and deaths on our roads, too much pollution, and too much time wasted in gridlock. At the root of these challenges are human errors and choices: reckless, intoxicated, and distracted driving behaviors that lead to crashes, congestion, and hours spent idling in traffic.

And these trends are headed in the wrong direction: Approximately 4,407 Californians lost their lives in traffic crashes in 2022 — a 3% increase over the previous year. The size and weight of trucks make them particularly prone to causing severe crashes; according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the United States saw a 27 percent increase in fatalities in fatal crashes involving large trucks in 2020 — and 83% of those were not occupants of the truck.

The underlying technology of autonomous trucks has the potential to improve road safety for all California road users. By leveraging advanced sensors, artificial intelligence, and sophisticated algorithms, autonomous trucks are capable of detecting potential hazards, analyzing complex road conditions, and responding with unmatched speed and precision.

Unlike human drivers, autonomous trucks are not subject to fatigue, distraction, or impairment, ensuring constant attentiveness that prohibits crashes caused by human error.

Striking the balance

California’s highway safety experts have developed a framework that requires intensive testing, certification, and ongoing evaluation of autonomous trucks.

The DMV collaborates with industry stakeholders, researchers, and policymakers to develop this framework, addressing safety concerns while still allowing for the responsible and controlled deployment of autonomous trucks.

Assembly Bill 316 would close the door to this regulatory framework developed by the state’s top safety experts and institute a blanket prohibition on autonomous trucks, regardless of their safety records.

There remains a great deal of public skepticism about automated vehicles. My organization, Partners for Automated Vehicle Education, exists to foster fact-based conversations that acknowledge the deep uncertainty new technologies can bring — and the benefits in safety and mobility these technologies promise.

As Californians consider how best to approach autonomous trucking, they should recognize another risk — the risk of maintaining a status quote that kills the equivalent of more than one packed airliner full of passengers every week.

A Senior and Formerly Unhoused Mechanic Tries Out Autonomous Driving

By Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving

By all accounts, Clayton, a Phoenix man in his 70s, is flourishing. He resides in a close-knit, affordable housing community called Acacia Heights that hosts game nights and potlucks once a month to bring its residents closer together. He serves as a volunteer on the board of nonprofit Circle the City that provides life-saving healthcare to unhoused individuals.

“I feel grateful for every day I’m allowed to wake up,” Clayton says.

It’s hard to imagine that not too long ago, Clayton was also unhoused and a client of Circle the City. Circle the City empowered him to find his home at Acacia Heights through another nonprofit, Foundation for Senior Living (FSL), which provides assistance to Phoenix seniors and people with disabilities and access to affordable housing.

“The residents here are really good at looking after each other,” Clayton says, adding that he loves the community’s amenities like a common room, computer lab, and easy access to downtown Phoenix. “It’s a really, really good feeling to me.”

In contrast to when he was unhoused, Clayton now has many community connections, and volunteering is especially meaningful to him.

“It’s my way of giving back,” Clayton explains.

Clayton, who once worked as an auto mechanic (who once put a totally torn-apart engine back together in two hours and 10 minutes!) believes in a lifelong commitment to trying new things. He put that into action recently when he caught a Waymo One ride to Circle the City in an autonomously driven vehicle.

“People said, ‘You can’t do that.’ And I said, ‘Don’t tell me I can’t. That’s not in my book.’”

Tami Bohannon, CEO of Foundation for Senior Living, which manages Acacia Heights, says FSL is partnering with Waymo to explore how the technology could help residents like Clayton, many of whom do not drive.

“The partnership with Waymo allows FSL participants to stay connected to the larger community,” Tami emphasizes.

Waymo’s autonomous driving technology is designed to be conscientious, constantly vigilant, follow road rules, and make safe driving decisions. Not only could the technology offer seniors who can no longer drive an on-demand safe transportation option, it also could help seniors with limited mobility get the final miles from their homes to public transportation stations by providing one possible solution to the “last mile problem.” Waymo has worked with Phoenix’s public transit system on piloting models for how the technology could close transit gaps.

Tami says the population that FSL serves is expanding, and so will the need for assistance and tools that help people live independently.

“We have a silver tsunami coming. By 2030, there will be 42 million seniors, people over the age of 65 in the United States,” Tami explains. “I do know 90% of seniors tell us they want to live independently.”

Over the last 30 years, FSL has developed 25 affordable apartment communities for seniors and people with disabilities in Phoenix, including Acacia Heights.

Tami says she believes that technology like Waymo’s could be an extension of the services FSL provides already.

“When I think of Waymo’s partnership with FSL, it is actually an extension of our caregiving resources,” Tami says. “If a senior has the ability to use an app, call a Waymo, and take a ride to go to the doctor, an exercise class, or to visit a friend or family member… it’s kind of a new way to look at caregiving.”

Tami says the partnership reflects FSL’s solutions-focused, innovative values.

“Whether that solution is an autonomous car that picks up one of our participants or residents, or we would love to explore robotics and be able to have some form of robotics help us with our caregiving duties, whether it’s in someone’s home or in one of our centers, we’re all about embracing innovation and looking at the world differently.”

Tami says she realized some people might be afraid of autonomous driving technology like Waymo’s, but that life is much richer when people don’t let fear stand in the way of new ways of doing things.

“Think about how your life would be different if you had this kind of technology, this innovative technology available to you,” Tami urges, adding that Clayton is a great example of someone trying new things. “We can’t let fear drive us, but we can let an autonomous car drive us.”

Ohio Autonomous Vehicle Project Deploys Vans, Trucks on Rural Roads

By Stephen Goin, Fox News

In the race to implement autonomous vehicles, Ohio’s rural roadways have become the latest testing ground.

In March, the state’s smart mobility initiative, DriveOhio, deployed autonomous vehicles on active roadways in southeastern Ohio for the first time. The Rural Automated Driving Systems (ADS) project specifically focuses on how automated vehicles operate in rural areas as they navigate curving, and hilly terrain.

DriveOhio Executive Director Preeti Choudary told Fox Business the state’s automated vehicle testing is designed to help Ohio understand how to improve vehicle safety and efficiency in rural communities.

“A lot of the testing to date has been in urban communities, we want to make sure that technology is being tested on rural roadways, so we can experience the challenges and come up with solutions,” Choudhary said. “This critical work will provide valuable information to help advance the safe integration of automated vehicle technologies in Ohio and across the nation.”

A 2022 study from the Bureau of Transportation statistics finds that rural areas are disproportionately affected by traffic fatalities. While only 19% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, 43% of all roadway fatalities occur on rural roads.

Choudhary said DriveOhio hopes to change those outcomes through the automated vehicle deployments underway.

The state is testing passenger vans equipped with AutonomouStuff technology − two Ford transit vans and a Chrysler Pacifica − on the divided highways and rural two-lane roads. This phase of the project focuses on the state’s 32 Appalachian counties as the most comprehensive testing effort yet to be conducted on rural roads in the United States. When the automated driving system is engaged, the technology will control steering, acceleration, and braking.

However, throughout the testing period, Choduhary said there will always be a driver behind the wheel.

“Many vehicles on the road today already have some degree of automated driving system technologies like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, or emergency braking. Those systems are meant to enhance safety, but they certainly don’t replace the human driver,” Choudary said.

A second deployment of vehicles will include two 53-foot semi-trucks connected by technology that automates a process called “platooning,” allowing the trucks to travel closely together at highway speeds.

When the trucks are connected, the lead vehicle controls the speed, and the following vehicle will have precisely matched braking and acceleration to respond to the lead vehicle’s movement. The trucks used in the project are also equipped with radar to detect other vehicles; technology that allows the trucks to monitor and react to the environment in real time. These vehicles will also have drivers behind the wheel at all times.

Ohio’s Lt. Governor John Husted, who heads InnovateOhio, told FoxBusiness the state’s automated vehicle testing builds on already implemented innovations.

“Lane technology, braking technology, all of those are forms of automotive driving systems already out there. We will just gradually continue to evolve that and improve that,” Husted said. “If you can implement a technology that people trust, overtime you can create highway safety which is the goal, these technologies will help make human beings more efficient.”

According to DriveOhio, the state will conduct the automated truck for an entire year before a private company, Ease Logistics, implements the technology in day-to-day operations. At the end of the testing period, Ohio will share the data collected from its project with federal transportation officials.

“Data is a huge piece of this project, we’ll be collecting a tremendous amount of data to try and link how these vehicles perform with what they’re seeing on the road. Ohio University will be involved in packaging that up, and we’ll report it to the federal motor carrier association, and they’ll disseminate that widely throughout the industry,” Choudhary said.

Forward Air, Kodiak Partner on Autonomous Route

By Connor D. Wolf, Transport Topics

Forward Air Corp. has partnered with self-driving trucking company Kodiak Robotics to run one of their busiest freight lanes near continuously with an autonomous truck, the company announced March 16.

Kodiak is hauling freight nonstop, as part of the partnership, six days a week between Dallas and Atlanta. The purpose of their agreement is to not only transport real freight but also for both companies to gain insights for the future development of autonomous technologies.

“They’ve been a really great partner to work with,” Kodiak CEO Don Burnette said. “Obviously, they do a lot of expedited freight and so this type of highly efficient, highly resilient, continuous operation is really valuable to a company like Forward. And so, it really was a no-brainer that this is the type of company that Kodiak would love to work with. And so far, it’s been a very successful relationship.”

Burnette noted that autonomous technology can increase asset utilization above the standard truck driving hours since it can run all day. The partnership will help put that to the test by running the truck all but one day a week along a lane that stretches about 800 miles. A safety driver team is overseeing the autonomous system in order to maintain the schedule while abiding by hours-of-service regulations.

“To serve our customers, we always need to be on the forefront of exploring emerging technologies,” Forward CEO Tom Schmitt said. “Kodiak has earned an outstanding reputation in safe autonomous trucking, and this collaboration allows us to explore potential benefits to our business. While we don’t see autonomous trucks replacing independent contractor capacity, this could potentially be a scalable solution for certain lanes in our network.”

Kodiak has already launched partnerships with several other carriers to haul real freight. But the new partnership, focused on expedited freight along a difficult corridor, provides new opportunities to improve efficiency and reliability. The company also sees it as an opening to illustrate how autonomous trucking can be an efficient way to supplement human-driven fleets.

“Not all carriers, not all private fleets, are the same,” Burnette said. “They don’t operate in the same way. They don’t have the same schedules, they don’t use the same transportation management systems. And so, we want to make sure that we’re working with companies like Forward early on in our development cycle so we can customize and tailor the solution to their needs and understand what challenges they’re facing.”

Burnette added the partnership will help both companies dive deep into these technologies and operations to better explore their capabilities and limitations. He noted that will help them to optimize business operations for an autonomous world.

“That’s not always obvious on the outset,” Burnette said. “You need to really get into the nitty-gritty details. And that’s why having this 24-6 continuous operation contract is so important, because it gives us a realistic, real-life view into the needs and demands of Forward. A lot of AV companies have been doing one-off pilots or short-term programs or a once-a-week operation, and it just doesn’t really give you enough insight into the true inner workings of a company like Forward and moving expedited freight.”

Kodiak and Forward decided on the route after a lane analysis covering the United States. That analysis looked at factors such as what lanes currently are being run round trip, the volume of freight being hauled and hours of service.

“We wanted to demonstrate the resiliency and the reliability of our system running across a challenging multi-hour-of-service freight corridor,” Burnette said. “And it just so happened that Dallas to Atlanta is one of the busiest corridors in the United States from a freight capacity perspective, and it was one that Forward runs regularly with freight in both directions.”

Kodiak began hauling freight on the lane in August. The first step after selecting the lane was to work out the kinks so those operations were being done responsibly and safely. Kodiak hauled more than a hundred loads on the lane during that process.

“That’s over a hundred thousand miles since we began working with them,” Burnette said. “We started talking to them before that. The relationship was building earlier in 2022 and then we went through the exercises to determine what route, how often, what was the frequency, what were all the details and we started moving freight in August.

“So, there was a bit of work that went into the relationship ahead of time, but so far, it’s been a fantastic experience working with them over the last six months.”

‘AVs Could Drive Road Deaths to Zero’: Governors Highway Safety Association Leaders Ride With Waymo

By Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving,

Across every US state and territory, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) serves as a valuable source of insights and advocacy to empower communities and drive road deaths to zero.

The nation’s road fatalities remain at unprecedented levels and exceeded 40,000 in 2021 for the first time since 2007., and GHSA was one of the first organizations to point out a spiraling epidemic of speeding and unsafe driving during the pandemic. GHSA is working to assess and reduce the largest and most widespread causes of traffic crashes: the human choices to drive drunk, not wear seatbelts, and speed.

GHSA Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Adkins, who has been with GHSA for 22 years, says he would love to see the nation achieve zero traffic deaths and put his nonprofit out of business.

“This has been going on for too long,” Adkins says. “Many of our friends and neighbors are losing their lives in traffic crashes and it’s completely preventable.”

To raise awareness, GHSA is partnering with Waymo to build acceptance and awareness about all potential road safety solutions, including autonomous driving, that could save lives.

Autonomous driving technology like Waymo’s can be designed to follow road rules like speed limits, stay constantly vigilant, and identify and anticipate what other road users may do to make the safest driving decision.

“We’re really excited about autonomous and semi-autonomous technology because it will literally prevent crashes,” Adkins says.

Russ Martin, senior director of policy and government relations at GHSA, says the partnership with Waymo is part of a push to work across industries, fields, and practice areas to consider the entire road system and leverage every tool and resource available to eliminate road deaths.

“Autonomous vehicle technology promises to save lives because it can remove a lot of human error, a lot of human risk out of the driving equation,” Martin says. “The more that we can get this technology on different kinds of vehicles, hopefully the more kinds of crashes that we can prevent.”

Martin and Adkins recently rode in a Waymo One autonomously driven vehicle and a Waymo Via autonomously driven semi-truck.

“You can tell that the technology’s been incrementally improved over time,” shares Martin, who last took a ride in an autonomous vehicle nearly a decade prior.

For Adkins, it was his first time riding in an autonomously driven vehicle and truck.

“After I got over the excitement of being in the vehicle, I was thinking about the perspective of some of the other vehicles on the road and how predictable the Waymo driver is,” Adkins shares. “As another driver on the road, that predictability keeps us all safe.”

In addition to enhancing road safety, Adkins says, the technology could benefit those who cannot drive, such as those who are blind.

“Too many people are excluded because they can’t drive somewhere, and this is going to be one of those tools that’s going to make people’s lives better,” Adkins says.

Adkins says he believes autonomous driving technology even could have benefited his own mother, who had to move into a retirement home. Adkins believes she could have stayed independent and in her own home longer if she had had the option of calling an autonomous ride when she could no longer drive.

“Transportation is freedom, whether it’s bicycling, walking, driving a car, transportation’s freedom,” Adkins emphasizes. “And so we’re excited about this from a safety standpoint, from a mobility standpoint and just general quality of life.”

Martin shares that he enjoyed speaking to the Waymo Via autonomous truck operator – a veteran truck driver – accompanying the truck as it drove.

“He spoke about how the truck’s sensor technology was able to pick up things at night, that he as the operator just didn’t see because it was beyond the headlines,” Martin recalls. “That kind of safety value seems very important.

Martin says he hopes individual people will feel empowered to do something about road safety so that it is addressed from every possible angle.

“Whether it’s buckling up on every trip, controlling your speed, putting your phone down in the car, and creating a stronger safety culture, everyday people can do that,” Martin says.

Adkins says the work to bring road fatalities is within reach, provided strategies account for all available tools, including autonomous driving technology.

“Whether we’re drivers, whether we’re riding a bike, whether we’re walking, it impacts everyone, but it does impact people of color disproportionately for a host of reasons,” Adkins says. “And so we really have to do better. This is an outrage and it’s completely preventable.”

Adkins underscores that the GHSA-Waymo partnership represents a model for addressing road safety across spheres.

“If we’re truly going to eliminate traffic deaths, it’s not going to be solely because of the Governors Highway Safety Association, or solely because of Waymo,” Adkins says. “We have to work together.”

How Technology Is Driving The Transportation Industry Toward A Sustainable Future

By Daragh Mahon, Forbes

Every industry contributes to the impact of greenhouse gas emissions, and trucking is no exception. For decades, we have worked to improve sustainability by increasing fuel efficiency and reducing carbon impact.

Fortunately, the world has reached a technical maturity where we can—and must—start taking steps toward a more sustainable future. Ideas that have been around for years, such as alternative fuels and autonomous vehicles, are now within reach. If we act fast enough and invest in the necessary resources, the transportation industry can harness technology in never-before-seen ways.

Logistics And Maintenance

Technology is driving the most sustainable impact through supply chain optimization. For example, empty miles, or when a truck drives with no freight, is an issue the transportation and logistics industry has been improving upon for years. Now, developments in machine learning and AI represent an opportunity to make even larger reductions. Continued improvements to route optimization, including incorporating real-time data for weather and accidents, help reduce idle time and increase route efficiency.

Maintenance efficiency is another area where technology is making an impact. Predictive maintenance systems use IoT devices and onboard sensors to monitor vehicle equipment and alert drivers when there is a potential mechanical problem or the truck is due for routine maintenance. This keeps vehicles operating at peak fuel efficiency and reduces the likelihood of a roadside breakdown, saving the additional emissions from towing.

Alternative Fuels

Vehicle emissions have improved tremendously over the past few decades, especially diesel. Exhaust technology and fuel-refining processes mean fossil fuels are burning cleaner than ever. But as usage only continues to grow, it’s clear that we must diversify our fuel sources to meet future demand.

The idea of alternative fuels has been around for decades, but now it’s time to act and get honest about the viability of each. Transportation companies should have conversations with startups, emerging brands and partner brands to help find viable, alternative solutions that support the trucking ecosystem.

Though we feel that a long-term solution has not yet been identified, there are a few fuel alternatives we have been keeping a close eye on as they develop—electricity, hydrogen and natural gas.

Electric vehicles (EVs) run on a renewable resource and produce no tailpipe emissions; however, this is one energy source that we need to get real about. For trucks alone, three unique challenges need to be solved.

  • The U.S. needs the electrical grid to deliver or produce the electricity required to support an EV-driven nation. An American Transportation Research Institute study finds that the national demand for an all-EV U.S. vehicle fleet would require over 40% of the power currently generated.
  • Currently, there is no battery that can withstand long, over-the-road distances and has a weight that can work on trucks and trailers. Most importantly, the millions of tons of raw materials needed to produce these batteries require extraction from the ground. The environmental damage is not fully understood, but we know that mining and processing these materials produces considerable CO2 and causes pollution issues. Coupled with other problems like water usage and labor exploitation, we should rethink if this is a viable alternative.
  • The charging infrastructure is problematic—what will the cost be to create it and for the trucker to use it? Where do we add charging stations? How will we develop long-term parking to accommodate 8–12 hours of charging?

Hydrogen is a flexible fuel that can be used in both fuel-cell technology and internal combustion engines. Currently, hydrogen engines burn more energy than they create, making them unviable for implementation across a large fleet. Evidence suggests that this can and will change, but it’s far from being a realistic alternative.

Natural gas is an abundant resource that burns cleaner than gas and is more affordable. It is a viable option to reduce emissions as more infrastructure supports the country’s transportation needs. However, testing and resources are required to make this attainable for the industry.

These issues do not mean a future powered by alternative fuels is impossible. Their use has been prominent in progressing toward carbon reduction goals; however, we need to recognize the issue’s complexity to plan for our energy future appropriately. Transportation companies are responsible for testing and piloting new options, as we have a front seat to help drive innovation.

Autonomous Vehicles

Beyond alternative fuels and supply chain optimization, autonomous vehicles (AVs) could support the industry’s impact on climate change. Advanced AI models can calculate operations for maximum efficiency and optimize routes continuously using real-time navigation data, keeping fuel consumption at the lowest levels.

From a technical perspective, AVs are entirely possible. However, perception issues around safety and liability need to be addressed before wide-scale adoption can occur.

Realistically, we are likely looking at a hybrid transportation model with a mix of human and machine drivers. Features like breaking assist and parking assistance, known as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), are already used in vehicles today. We will continue to build upon these types of systems, slowly shifting responsibility over to the computer while keeping human drivers present to monitor and ensure all technology is working as intended.

Further down the line, we could have driverless vehicles in limited circumstances. Long-haul routes could become autonomous, traveling between a national network of transportation hubs built outside large population areas. There, loads could be transferred to human drivers for shorter routes that require more skillful driving. A model like this would allow drivers to return home most nights while utilizing the carbon-reducing efforts of autonomous vehicles for the long haul.

Investors In Change And Industry-Wide Buy-In

The industry is at a turning point. We can see a sustainable future on the horizon, but there is still work to do. In the meantime, companies can implement existing technologies that help optimize their operations and maintain equipment efficiency. Future tech requires the investment of industry leaders to fast-track innovation and reduce the cost of industry-wide adoption.