Speaker 1: If you're not real excited about self-driving cars, wait till you pull up next to a self-driving truck. I mean a big one, like a big rig class eight tractor trailer. This is one of the most exciting areas in self-driving development, and it could be coming sooner and more importantly than anything in your driveway, check it out.
Speaker 1: [00:00:30] Aurora encompasses what used to be Uber's self-driving technology till they got out of that game. For reasons I don't need to remind you about, they call this Aurora driver. It's their core technology. When it's applied to fleet services, it's called Aurora horizon. It'll be offered as a subscription service. Aurora hardware installed by partner, truck makers, but only working if you subscribe to it. So Aurora's not making trucks, but a triple sensor package, [00:01:00] autonomy software and the bespoke computer that drives the truck like many companies on this list. Aurora develops against a network of routes, a key difference between this sector and that of autonomous personal cars, whose routes are pretty much unpredictable. Aurora counts, Volvo trucks, one of the biggies as one of its main partners and expects that it'll start this service in Texas spread through the Sunbelt, then to broader parts of the us. I suspect the challenges of inclement weather [00:01:30] perhaps are dictating that
Speaker 1: Now en ride is interesting because they make a tractor trailer combo that is autonomous and electric, but they also make a trailer alone that is autonomous and electric. Well, mostly electric and a little bit of smart. Here's what I mean. You can connect that trailer to their tractor, their truck, which is called the pod. And then you've got a complete combo, but the trailer itself will be made available to connect to other companies, [00:02:00] electric tractors, the front end of the truck. The idea here is that the trailer has a giant battery in it, which is coupled to the electric truck cab that allows it to have up to 400 miles of additional range. They say it also is a smart trader gathering data about when and how it's used to make logistics smarter. Regardless of the truck it's connected to at the front
Speaker 1: Trucks is totally focused on their technology [00:02:30] being installed in other people's trucks. They don't make vehicles themselves. They do software and services only working with Volvo Kenworth, Peterbilt and Freightliner. And what this illustrates to us broadly around the industry is that you're gonna see that echoed from many companies. And here's why these long haul, big class eight semi rigs are long term investments. They don't come and go through owners quite the way our personal cars do because they're huge investments to begin with. They're very durable [00:03:00] and they don't tend to change as rapidly as our personal cars, which often change more in fashion than anything else. So these vehicles are gonna be around for a long time to meet the fleet where it lives. Many of the smartest companies in our list are saying, Hey, we retrofit into what you've got.
Speaker 1: Now, Kodiak robotics has an interesting story. They will tell you almost as much about how their truck stops as how it goes, both being done autonomously. They talk [00:03:30] about their trucks, always working in a fallback mode. Looking not just directly ahead, but further ahead, and always calculating and working out whether or not the vehicle has to be able to pull over and stop safely and how to do that, frankly, it's kind of how you were taught to drive back in the day, right? Defensive driver always know what your out is. If things go to hell on the road in front of you, they've imbued a lot of that into their vehicles, thinking that there will always be some kind of mechanical or road condition out there that is gonna require [00:04:00] a truck to say, I'm just gonna get out right now and not become a problem.
Speaker 1: Now, lo cremation's interesting. Every time you'll see a vision of their truck, you'll see too, because they're really big on this idea of convoys. The idea is one truck in the front is being driven by a human who's being assisted by automation. For sure. And the truck in the back probably doesn't have anyone at the wheel, or at least not actively because it's following the truck in front, which is such a good leader [00:04:30] because it's got both a human and a machine working together to make sure it's handling the path and the route. It's really interesting. It also gets into a great degree of efficiency and utilization. They claim you get two trucks out there in convoy, two drivers, but they're able to take shifts and rotate and take rest breaks while underway. And the idea there is very much one of getting trucks to drive 20 to 22 hours a day, almost constant utilization. And this is very much taking a page out of long haul airlines [00:05:00] who will fly you from LA to Sydney because they can put crew relief into the vehicle. And they've also got places for crew rest. Otherwise they'd have to make tedious stops along the way like we used to do back in the day that made those routes inefficient.
Speaker 1: Plus as another one of these companies, it's really focused on retrofit, but also on upfit. Upfit is where you order a new vehicle. And then you specify how you want it to be equipped. Let's [00:05:30] say you buy a vehicle, that's got a bear chassis and you want the certain kind of box put on it for your business. That sort of thing is big in the commercial vehicle business. And plus wants to play heavily into the upfitter market as well as retrofiting, by the way the company says it did a successful coast to coast run with a spotter driver all the way back in 2019
Speaker 1: Torque robotics that's T O C is comprised of a lot of Virginia tech technology and the student team [00:06:00] that went to 2007 DARPA grand challenge and did really well there. Now, as you recall, the 2007 DARPA grand challenge was kind of the big bang for autonomous vehicles, the vehicles and teams that came out of that really set the stage and ignited our imaginations for the idea that autonomous vehicles are now a win, not an if torque, by the way, is working most closely with Daimler as its traditional truck partner, that it will be outfitting with autonomy. And they almost always envision there being a [00:06:30] skilled human driver on duty while the truck is driving itself. That's because they're looking at level four, a truck that can drive itself in the majority of situations, but which still has all the controls and interfaces so that a human can drive it manually as well. That's different than a level five vehicle, which are the more futuristic ones we're talking about, where there's just no role or place for a human driver at all
Speaker 1: Too simple intrigues me because [00:07:00] they start with route, they start with backbone. Then they fill in with vehicles if you will. So they're talking very much about the cities that they all establish and network across, where they know their vehicles can navigate. They've mapped the hell out of those highways. They know all the different ins and outs and they establish depots, or they call them launch pads that are center hubs at all those cities. Then you would come and establish the last mile to have your freight taken from their launch pad to where it needs to be. But they've got another model for big shippers or big freight [00:07:30] operators who would say, no, I'm gonna actually own your vehicles and I'm gonna have them go door to door, to all my locations. So they have two different levels there. But the idea that they're really looking at the routing first and saying, we're gonna establish almost a new kind of railroad, where we do all the long haul and it's kind of between fixed points as needed. And then you use trucks to get it to its final destination. But in this case, of course, it's trucks then servicing trucks,
Speaker 1: Finally, there's Waymo [00:08:00] via, almost needs no introduction, right? Waymo is Google's self-driving division. And then when it's Waymo via it's trucking, and that means a partnership with Uber. So Waymo's gonna do the self-driving trucks, the processing, the sensors, the compute that runs the truck, Uber will come in and do the Uberization of freight the way Uber did with rides. They match up the demand for rides. And then they couple that with the capacity of a network that didn't really exist before of people [00:08:30] who could become drivers on an ad hoc as needed basis, that's their model, a better matching of the freight that's out there, which can be unpredictable in some cases with the capacity out there that probably has a lot of remnants or could be more adapted to the demand of freight, especially with shippers that don't have a real larger regular cadence.
Speaker 1: Okay. Now, a lot of folks ask me, when are these trucks gonna be out there with nobody behind the wheel, because that's when I'm gonna [00:09:00] start staying home and not on the highway. It's hard to say because some of these technologies allow that some of these don't really envision that, and you've got other parties that will have a say, not necessarily the tech maker, but also the fleet operator they'll make a decision. How much and how do they want to utilize this very tight, skilled base of drivers, which they could use more of. And you'll also have federal regulators chiming in on this in a big way. They regulate this kind of vehicle much more than even our personal cars [00:09:30] know that as I've looked through these companies, I can see there's a sweet spot emerging in 2023 and 2024. When almost all of them say they're gonna be hitting their stride, really getting vehicles on the road and exiting the sort of early trials they're in right now. So you got about a year or so before things get real interesting out there.