Torc Robotics, C.R. England Team on Autonomous Pilot

By Kelron Greenhalgh, Transport Topics

Torc Robotics and C.R. England are teaming up on a pilot program that leverages the refrigerated carrier’s temperature-controlled loads and the self-driving-vehicle technology company’s Level 4 autonomous trucks, they said in a May 9 statement.

This will be one of many collaborations, Torc CEO Peter Vaughan Schmidt told Transport Topics on May 12. Torc, independent subsidiary of Daimler Truck AG, wants to ensure it has insight into all the relevant subsegments of trucking. Autonomous vehicles can provide a lot of value to Torc’s customers and society as a whole, Schmidt said.

The program is Torc’s second announced U.S. carrier pilot. Initial planning for the C.R. England partnership will begin in the middle of the year, with on-road tests soon after, Torc said.

Joanna Buttler, head of the autonomous technology group at Daimler Truck, said in the statement that the arrangement will bring the parent company of Freightliner and Western Star closer to its goal of commercializing and implementing autonomous trucking within the decade.

“By adding autonomous lanes to our network, we can expand our customer offerings and create more structured jobs for drivers at both ends of autonomous runs,” C.R, England CEO Chad England said. “Torc’s deep integration with Daimler Truck makes our two organizations a perfect fit for piloting this new technology,” C.R. England’s refrigerated operations represent an important trucking segment, Schmidt said, adding that the opportunities for using self-driving vehicles in the sector were substantial, particularly in terms of hours of service.

The partnership will help Torc learn a lot about C.R. England’s processes, Schmidt said. Torc needs to understand what goes on with refrigerated trucks, including the loading of the trailer, and must move on from using concrete blocks as the load, he said.

C.R. England’s commitment to safety offered a great overlap, he said. The I-40 southwest corridor is the starting point for Torc’s first generation product. That highway is ideal for autonomous trucks, with favorable weather conditions and long stretches of road, Schmidt said.

The benefits of autonomous trucks tend to be centered on safety and operating costs, said Jim Lowell, vice president of technology at predictive analytics specialist Uptake. Trucking companies’ overall safety score should improve as a result of the implementation of autonomous trucking, likewise fuel optimization, he said May 12, adding that autonomous vehicles could be more consistent.

The focus on safety cannot be overemphasized, Lowell said, because if an autonomous car crashes, then the manufacturer is liable, whereas if an autonomous truck strikes something, then the original equipment manufacturer and the trucking company are liable.

Autonomous trucking is set to provide as much as 20 times more data for operators, Lowell said. Uptake specializes in helping companies optimize their operations through data analysis.

More data is the foundation of expanding artificial intelligence use. Torc recently acquired Canadian developer Algolux for its intellectual property and expertise in computer vision and machine learning.

The self-driving market is expanding fast. Autonomous truck developer Kodiak Robotics unveiled a battery-electric Class 8 truck at the 2023 Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in early May. Other self-driving truck developers combining autonomous driving and electrification include Einride and Nikola Corp.

Kodiak said it plans to incorporate the zero-emission truck into its test fleet next year, joining the automated diesel-powered trucks the company already is operating on U.S. highways. The Peterbilt Model 579EV, designed for shorthaul and drayage applications, has a range of up to 150 miles. The vehicle’s batteries can be recharged in as little as three hours.

Full Speed Ahead: Bringing Autonomous Trucks to the Road

By DHL, Freightwaves

The growing severity of the driver shortage, combined with a shrinking number of predictable and set routes and increasing customer demands, is putting the spotlight once again on autonomous trucks. While the technology continues to evolve and show promise, it can sometimes be difficult to separate hype from reality and overpromises from viable ROI.

At DHL Supply Chain, we see the value autonomous trucks can bring to the supply chain, especially in long-haul logistics operations where they offer a new level of optimization unachievable with human operators. Autonomous trucks is one of the technologies we are actively exploring as part of our commitment to accelerating digitalization across the supply chain.

In fact, outdoor autonomous vehicles, including autonomous trucks, is one of the technology trends explored in the recently released DHL Logistics Trend Radar (LTR) 6.0. Spanning technology, business and social trends, the LTR offers insight on the specific innovations and trends becoming reality in the next 5-10 years to inspire change, boost collaboration and ensure supply chain resilience across every industry.

Taking a leadership role

DHL Supply Chain is investing in outdoor autonomous vehicles and working with several companies to move beyond the hype and make the transportation of freight on highways safer and more reliable through automation.

One such partner is Volvo. DHL Supply Chain and Volvo have enjoyed a long collaborative relationship, which includes the deployment of electric vehicles. In early 2022, Volvo Autonomous Solutions (VAS) announced it would offer a new hub-to-hub autonomous transport solution designed to serve shipper, carrier, logistics service provider and freight broker customer segments. DHL Supply Chain is Volvo’s first customer to pilot the hub-to-hub solution.

As part of this collaboration, DHL Supply Chain is now working closely with the company to understand the opportunity, identify any existing challenges and develop a plan to overcome them. Our teams are working together to ensure the technology is designed to meet the needs of the application and operate safely on the road.

With its proven track record of safety and relentless commitment to innovation, Volvo is an ideal partner for us as we look to safely optimize trucking with automation.

Providing a viable option for long-haul routes

Autonomous trucks promise to fundamentally change logistics, but not by completely replacing manually driven trucks in the supply chain. This is part of the hype that needs to be dispelled. DHL Supply Chain and VAS see autonomous trucks as a complement to the transport system we have today. They are not “the” solution, but another solution that will help us meet growing transport needs across the industry.

One area where we see autonomous trucks bringing value as the technology matures is with long-haul transport. Long-haul routes, which generally cover distances of more than 250 miles, tend to be the least desirable jobs for drivers. They can require long hours on the road and days away from family and friends. With the current driver shortage, many applicants are opting out of these types of routes—at a time when many long-haul truck drivers continue to retire.

Federal regulations prescribe driving times and breaks for drivers, which means manually operated trucks have to stop frequently. The aim, understandably, is to minimize the risk of fatigue and prevent possible driving errors. However, an autonomous truck would not be governed by these regulations, significantly cutting delivery times and operational costs.

For example, a manually operated freight truck delivering product from California to Pennsylvania would normally take about nine days, factoring in inclement weather. A rush direct order could take five days. An autonomous truck that would not have to take breaks and could move continuously could conceivably do the same delivery in three days.

Additionally, by driving much closer together at high speeds, two or more communicating autonomous trucks could form a tight platoon, reducing drag and providing up to 20% in fuel savings and reducing emissions.

Furthermore, without the need for a human driver, autonomous trucks can allocate more vehicle space to cargo, lowering transportation costs for each trip. Some autonomous truck designs and prototypes even suggest eliminating the entire truck cab, lowering production and operations costs, while increasing loading capacity and energy efficiency.

Of course, we are not quite there yet. It will still be a few years before we see fleets of autonomous trucks on the nation’s highways. More technology advances and tests are needed, as well as the formation and standardization of rules and regulations before real benefits can be realized.

We continue to work closely with our partners, including Volvo, to evolve the technology for open-road use. While cost savings and efficiency gains are an important part of the equation, safety remains a top focus.

According to the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 45,900 large trucks were involved in injury crashes on U.S. roads in 2020. Safety in our facilities and in our trucks is a number one priority for DHL Supply Chain. Ideally, autonomous trucking will offer another valuable asset that will help us continue to do our part in decreasing injuries and increasing safety on the roads.

Biden Administration Launches New Workforce Program For Emerging Technology Jobs

By Shalin Jyotishi, Forbes

The Biden administration has launched a new workforce development funding program to help people, including those at community colleges, gain skills for emerging jobs in fields like AI, biotechnology, quantum science and new areas of advanced manufacturing and semiconductor.

Administered as a grant competition by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the federal agency that supports research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering, the Experiential Learning for Emerging and Novel Technologies (ExLENT) program will provide $30 million to fund partnerships between workforce development entities and organizations with expertise in emerging technologies.

The ExLENT program is housed within the NSF’s Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) arm which launched earlier this year to help translate federal investments in research and development into new technologies, startups and jobs that benefit communities and support economic development.

The program will fund 25 to 35 partnerships in amounts up to $1 million amounts given over three years to support “experiential learning” opportunities in emerging technology fields.

The NSF describes experiential learning as including internships, externships, apprenticeships, co-op experiences, project-based learning and other work-based learning programs that could either expose more people to emerging technology fields, help them gain the necessary skills to obtain jobs in those fields, or both.

The funding can be used to support learning opportunities targeted at adults or youth, regardless of whether they are currently students at an accredited college or university.

Organizations can apply for funding from ExLENT to support three kinds of experiential learning programs that cater to people with varying STEM skill levels:

Explorations Track: Provides participants with no prior STEM experience with an experiential learning opportunity that builds interest, motivation, and knowledge in an emerging technology field and inspires them to explore pathways to careers in these areas.

Beginnings Track: Provides participants with a limited STEM experience an experiential learning opportunity to gain more experience to pursue a career in an emerging technology field.

Pivots Track: Provides current professionals in any field with an experiential learning opportunity that equips them with the necessary skills to pivot into careers in emerging technology fields.

Emerging Technology Training at Community Colleges

While some community colleges obtain workforce training funding through NSF’s Advanced Technological Education program, four-year universities historically win the bulk of NSF grants that fund graduate and undergraduate-level STEM education and training.

That may be changing. As shared in an interview for New America, the inaugural head of NSF’s TIP Directorate, Erwin Gianchandani, emphasized the importance of community colleges connecting to innovation economies and offering pathways to jobs in emerging technology fields, especially the ones NSF is hoping to promote through its research funding.

In an email from the NSF announcing the ExLENT program, Gianchandani stated that “this program acknowledges that traditional STEM education pathways are not by themselves sufficient to address the large workforce shortages that the nation faces today in emerging technology areas.”

Emerging technology fields will almost always need universities to prepare skilled talent such as PhD-level scientists and engineers, but many fields require a technician-level workforce that is well suited to a community college-level education.

Community colleges offer many of the learning opportunities described by NSF through their degree programs but especially their workforce development and continuing education arms.

Workforce training programs for emerging technology fields are still rare at community colleges, but more colleges are beginning to respond to this new need.

Intel’s CEO Pat Gelsinger, a community college graduate himself, has publicly advocated for an expanded role of community colleges in emerging technology training, and Intel has partnered with the American Association of Community Colleges to expand AI workforce training programs at community colleges in all 50 states by next year.

So far, the programs range from two-year degrees to bootcamps, short courses, and K-12 level immersion programs that could be good candidates for ExLENT funding.

Research by Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology has also called for more for AI education at the community college level, citing colleges’ workforce development expertise and the fact that they enroll a more diverse student population than most 4-year universities. An explicit mandate of ExLENT is to help diversify emerging technology fields.

Federally Supported Pathways to the Future of Work

ExLENT could follow in the footsteps of other federal programs that have successfully supported community college partnerships that lead to jobs in emerging technology fields.

Pima Community College in Arizona recently launched the first certificate program for autonomous vehicle truckers with TuSimple, the first autonomous vehicles company to go public in the United States. The partnership was supported in part by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s University Transportation Centers Program.

And in Tennessee, Pellissippi State Community College partnered with the federally-funded Oakridge National Laboratory and the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation to offer enhanced advanced manufacturing training. The partnership U.S. Department of Defense’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment program.

Since NSF’s ExLENT program hopes to connect workforce development organizations with emerging technology experts, it could be just the catalyst community colleges need to create or expand their partnerships with employers, research universities, technology-based economic development organizations, federally-funded research and development centers, and other entities focused on developing and deploying emerging technologies.

NSF has launched a newsletter for ExLENT and will host an introductory webinar for prospective applicants on November 1st, 2022. Initial applications will be due in March 2023.

Nuro’s Summer of STEM — Inspiring the Workforce of the Future

By Nuro Team, Medium

Every summer, millions of students spend their days in a variety of activities and camps. This is a great opportunity for students of all backgrounds to get exposed to and inspired by new concepts, new environments, and new technologies. This year, Nuro launched “Summer of STEM” — an initiative focused on supporting education programs that deliver effective Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) engagement and education opportunities to learners of all ages and backgrounds.

Nuro employees volunteered hundreds of hours with over 600 students participating — learning about Nuro’s autonomous vehicles, the technology behind our neighborhood delivery services, and the current and future career opportunities at companies like Nuro.

Below, we highlight some of the wonderful programs, with links to learn more. Nuro welcomes inquiries for tours, speakers, or other opportunities to share this innovative technology with students in local communities — contact us at [email protected] for more information.

Wilcox High School (Santa Clara, CA) and Wender Weis Foundation Tour with De Anza College

Nuro partnered with the Wender Weis Foundation for Children to host a tour of our Proto-Manufacturing Facilities Facility in Santa Clara for automotive technology students at nearby Wilcox High School. The students got an inside view of the vehicle building process and maintenance of our autonomous fleet, talked with Nuro employees about their roles, and learned about Nuro’s Autonomous, Electric Vehicle Technician Pathway Program with De Anza College — featuring a College-level seminar on automotive technology.

Hydra Hacks hackathon and workshops

Hydra Hacks is “the West Coast’s largest hackathon for marginalized genders.” This year’s hackathon involved a combination of coding/programming workshops and a hackathon competition with over 200 high school and college participants. Sponsored by Nuro, and led by Nuro’s employee resource group (ERG), Women of Nuro, employees volunteered as mentors and judges.

Houston TechConnect Summer Series

The TechConnect Initiative, organized by Houston City Council Member Karla Cisneros, brings STEM activities to underserved youth at park community centers in District H. Nuro showcased our autonomous vehicles and sponsored lunch for the participating students. Nuro was able to speak with youth participants on the importance of studying STEM fields.

Hidden Genius Career Career Exploration

The Hidden Genius Project, with programs in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Detroit, “trains and mentors Black male youth in technology creation, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills to transform their lives and communities.”

As part of their Business Trip series, students from the Hidden Genius Project Intensive Immersion Program visited Nuro HQ to learn about computer science applications and entrepreneurship. In addition to a tour of the office, demonstration of the autonomous technology, and talk from Nuro CTO Andrew Clare, the Geniuses heard from a panel of current Nuro employees who are members of the Black @ Nuro ERG group about their career path and experience.

Mineta Summer Transportation Institute

The Mineta Summer Transportation Institute is a program for Bay Area high school students to learn about transportation careers on-campus at San Jose State University. Nuro provided an inside look into our technology and business with a lecture and demonstration of the R2 autonomous vehicle. Students were then assigned a presentation topic related to a potential launch of Nuro neighborhood delivery services in San Jose. They had to consider, who should we partner with, what could be delivered, and how we can let the community know about this technology.

Bay Area STEM Festival and Technology Showcase

Throughout the year, Nuro participates in a variety of community events in our operating regions. This summer, two Bay Area block party events focused on technology being developed in the region: the Apricot STEM Festival organized by the Los Altos History Museum and Technology Showcase by the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce. Youth and community members saw Nuro vehicles and talked to Nuro staff about the autonomous testing and delivery services happening in their neighborhoods. A few school robotics teams even provided demonstrations of their own ‘basketball shooting’ robots built for national FIRST Robotics Competitions.

Self-eSTEM mentoring and summer camp

Based in Oakland, CA, Self-eSTEM “builds the self-esteem of girls and young women from untapped communities, while providing interactive, culturally responsive STEM literacy, leadership, and technical training to leverage STEM as a foundation for social and economic growth.”

This summer, Nuro team members volunteered at Self-eSTEM’s Summer Exploration Camp in Oakland and attended their “Conversations in STEM” panel event to share stories of how they apply STEM education to their work at Nuro. We will host the students for a tour of Nuro HQ and lunch with the Women of Nuro ERG this winter.

Silicon Valley Youth Climate Action Green Careers Bus Tour

Prior to schools starting, the student-led Silicon Valley Youth Climate Action group organized a “Green Careers Bus Tour” of local companies focused on sustainability. Nuro was honored to be included in the group’s events; providing a tour of our offices, sharing best interview practices by our recruiting team, and presentation by Greenwork, a Nuro partner, ​​using their technology platform to connect skilled labor with jobs in green construction and manufacturing industries.

Bay Area Robotics Teams

Some students are already well on their way to careers in STEM, leading some of the top High School robotics teams in the country. Throughout the year, Nuro hosts these students to see and interact with our (slightly larger) robots, and learn about the similar technologies powering our autonomous systems. This summer, students from Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Fremont, Los Gatos, San Jose, and other nearby cities visited the Nuro HQ for demos, pizza night, and exciting discussions on the future of robotics