By now, you’ve likely heard about Google’s plans to have more self-driving cars on the road, and the ensuing debates surrounding their merits and safety. But how would you feel not about a self-driving car, but a driverless 18-wheel truck cruising on the road beside you?
Many might be alarmed by this image, but not Anthony Levandowski — an engineer who was involved in making the technology used in Google’s driverless cars. Not only does Levandowski believe driverless trucks are about to make it big, he feels that they are even an important part of creating safer roadways. In fact, Levandowski was so committed to his vision that he quit Google to found a startup called Otto, which he created with two other Google employees in San Francisco.
Otto’s wants to create software, sensors, lasers and cameras for trucks so that they can drive on American highways autonomously. A human driver would be able to handle other jobs, or take a nap in the back, while a “robot trucker” would drive on the highway — humans would still navigate through city streets.
This might initially sound quite disarming, but the idea is not too unlike automated pilots, which are able to fly planes at very high altitudes, while a human takes control of the more challenging and strategically-minded takeoffs and landings.
But can we realistically expect to see self-driving trucks on the road anytime soon?
While the technology is rapidly progressing, experts predict that the government won’t get on board with allowing driverless trucks on the road in the near future. This is because if there were to be any kind of accident — particularly with a truck carrying heavy cargo — the consequences could be quite dire. But even if we may not see driverless trucks on highways for the time being, Levandowski’s expertise and technical background prove that this is an idea worth taking very seriously — and one that could very well come to fruition in years to come.