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Starsky Robotics runs 18-wheeler on Florida Turnpike with no human on board

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Starsky robotics runs 18-wheeler on florida turnpike with no human on board
Starsky Robotics recently operated an 18-wheeler on a 9-mile stretch of the Florida Turnpike in normal traffic conditions, cruising at 55 mph with no human onboard. A teleoperator more than 150 miles away in Jacksonville controlled the vehicle through its more complex maneuvers. (Courtesy: STARSKY ROBOTICS)

In the race to develop autonomous truck technology, Starsky Robotics separated itself from the pack June 16, when the company ran one of its automated 18-wheelers on a 9.4-mile stretch of the Florida Turnpike near Orlando without a human being on board.

Instead, a safety driver sat at a console at the company’s facility in Jacksonville, watching a collection of monitors fed by the truck’s onboard cameras. The console was equipped with a small steering wheel and accelerator and brake pedals with which he could perform last-mile and other operations.

Now, whether the feat truly qualifies as “autonomous,” “self-driving” or “driverless” is a matter for the Word Police to decide and competitors to argue over. By any name, the company is chalking it up as a victory and a major step in its long-term strategy.

Founded in 2016 in San Francisco, where it is still based, by Stefan Seltz-Axmacher and Kartik Tiwari, Starsky Robotics got its operating authority in 2017. While developing driverless technology, the company is also a traditional carrier with about three dozen trucks operating throughout the Lower 48.

Meanwhile, Starsky has been conducting progressively ambitious experiments with driverless technology. According to Seltz-Axmacher, the company’s approach to driverless technology is less about replacing humans altogether but to create a system where the machines can do what they do best and humans can still do the parts of the job they do better than the machines.

In this latest test, the remote driver maneuvered the truck from its starting point at a rest stop and onto the highway. He also ordered a lane change and handled the last-mile maneuvering when it was time to exit.

This turnpike test run, conducted in normal driving conditions, is the latest in a series of progressively more ambitious experiments. In February 2018, Starsky successfully ran one of its trucks at low speed along a 7-mile stretch of closed road in Southern Florida. In May this year, they operated a truck at a sustained 55 mph on a closed portion of the Selmon Expressway near Tampa. In interviews, Seltz-Axmacher has said that 55 mph is the intended highway speed at which Starsky will run its automated trucks commercially.

Earlier in June, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law allowing commercial vehicles to operate on public roads without the presence of human drivers on board. The new law replaces a law enacted in 2012 that required a human driver on board vehicle operating on public property for any reason other than testing.

The law goes into effect July 1.

Starsky’s goal is to have 20-25 driverless trucks operating commercially in 2020, training traditional drivers to be teleoperators.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Louis Hall

    July 5, 2019 at 8:19 am

    So does this operator that’s 150 miles from that truck have a CDL and all the qualifications of a truck driver , cause to me he a driver and should anything’ happen , wreck – mechanical malfunction- stolen – all the human variables that could apply to a driver he’s going to be the fall guy , you know you are trying to make a perfect world situation in an imperfect world, if all this time- money and talent been put into recruiting and higher pay standards and better link runs there would be no need for fantasyland transportation, .PS I see you governed the truck at 55 mph that is causing a traffic hazard, remember imperfect world.

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Kenworth to collaborate with Meritor on T680E Electric powertrain development

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concept photo of Kenworth electric model
The electric Kenworth T680E will be a short-hood day cab in tractor configurations of 4x2 and 6x4 axles and as a 6x4 axle straight truck. The T680E will offer an operating range between 100 to 150 miles, depending on application. (Courtesy: Kenworth)

KIRKLAND, Wash. — Kenworth has announced it will collaborate with Meritor on electric powertrain development for Class 8 Kenworth T680E battery-electric vehicles.

The electric Kenworth T680E will be a short-hood day cab in tractor configurations of 4×2 and 6×4 axles and as a 6×4 axle straight truck. The T680E will offer an operating range between 100 to 150 miles, depending on application.

“The Kenworth T680E development in collaboration with Meritor is a major advanced technology step in Kenworth’s evolution of zero-emission electric powertrain solutions for our customers,” said Kevin Baney, Kenworth general manager and PACCAR vice president. “Initial production of the Kenworth T680E is expected to begin in the fourth quarter 2020 and ramp through 2021.”

Meritor, Inc. is a global supplier of drivetrain, mobility, braking and aftermarket solutions for commercial vehicle and industrial markets. Meritor is based in Troy, Michigan.

“We look forward to working closely with Kenworth to help develop the Kenworth T680E as an important, viable battery-electric answer for the day cab market,” said T.J. Reed, vice president of Global Electrification for Meritor.

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New Kenworth parts, service locations now open in Maryland and Nebraska

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Kenworth service location in Maryland
West Point Kenworth is approximately one hour south of Sioux City, Iowa, and located along Highway 275, a major trucking route in the area. (Courtesy: Kenworth)

WESTMINSTER, Md. And West Point, Neb. — Kenworth now offers additional locations for parts and services. Mid Atlantic Kenworth has added a full-service location in Westminster, Maryland, while Sioux Falls Kenworth has opened a new parts and services dealership in West Point, Nebraska.

Maryland

In Westminster, Maryland, the 17,400-square-foot facility features a full parts and service department, with 10 service bays to maximize customer uptime for truck operators passing through the area. A drivers’ lounge is available to customers while their trucks are serviced.

The facility, Kenworth Mid Atlantic Westminster is located on three acres, which offers customers ample room to park their trucks.

The Westminster, Maryland facility is located at 821 Baltimore Blvd. and its hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Nebraska

With its new parts and service dealership in West Point, Nebraska, Sioux Falls Kenworth can now offer expanded support to fleets and operators in the greater Sioux City, Iowa area.

West Point Kenworth is approximately one hour south of Sioux City and located along Highway 275. The 12,800-square-foot building is situated on 3.5 acres. The facility features an 8,600-square-foot service department with eight service bays. Also included is a 1,200-square-foot parts retail display area and a 1,900-square-foot space for bulk storage.

The West Point facility is located at 1805 Sycamore St. in West Point. Hours of operation are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday.

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Agility partners with XStream Trucking to distribute aerodynamic TruckWings

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a patented design allows truckwings to swing out and retract
The patented TruckWings design incorporates folding panels made of impact-resistant, glass-reinforced composites attached to the rear sides and roof of the cab that automatically swing out to close the cab-to-trailer gap at highway speeds and retract at lower speeds. (Courtesy: Agility Fuel Solutions)

COSTA MESA, Cali. — Agility Fuel Solutions and XStream Trucking have announced that Agility will be the exclusive distributor of Xstream’s TruckWings aerodynamic systems for compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks in North America. Agility will also distribute TruckWings on a non-exclusive basis to the diesel truck market.

The patented TruckWings design incorporates folding panels made of impact-resistant, glass-reinforced composites attached to the rear sides and roof of the cab that automatically swing out to close the cab-to-trailer gap at highway speeds and retract against the rear of the cab at lower speeds to leave room for turning maneuvers.

“TruckWings is the first device which completely solves the turbulence problem created by the open area between the tractor and trailer that contributes significantly to a truck’s overall aerodynamic drag,” said Daniel Burrows, XStream Trucking’s founder and CEO. “We are pleased to now partner with Agility to offer TruckWings as a factory option for CNG trucks in North America.”

Agility, a business area of Hexagon Composites ASA, and XStream Trucking have previously partnered to provide TruckWings systems for over 750 CNG trucks used by major fleet operators. Agility’s leadership in providing clean fuel solutions for commercial vehicles coupled with its extensive customer base and value-added aftermarket services will expand XStream’s TruckWings solution to reach the growing CNG truck market throughout North America.

“Agility’s trucking fleet customers are focused on fuel cost savings and on increasing the fuel economy of their CNG trucks. TruckWings are a great answer to this problem, as we’ve demonstrated in real-world use with some of our major fleet customers,” said Eric Bippus, Agility’s senior vice president of global sales and marketing. “We are very pleased to enter into this distribution agreement and to continue to work with XStream Trucking to deliver clean and efficient transportation solutions for the North American trucking market.”

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