3 Days on the Road and the Robot Trucker's Going Home Tonight

TAMPA -- After three days of testing that shut down part of a Tampa toll road, the head of the company working on applying autonomous technology to truck driving says it went well.

Stefan Seltz-Axmacher is CEO of Starsky Robotics, the firm behind the project. It involves using autonomous technology to cover the long stretches of open highway that can lull humans to sleep, combined with truckers driving by remote control through crowded cities and confined spaces such as truck yards.

Seltz-Axmacher says they've spent the last three days putting their truck through tests to simulate emergency behaviors.

"Our system has to know when it's not working... (With) human drivers... we know if our vision is getting blurry... (or) if there's a tremor in our hand. It's a lot harder to know that a complex piece of robotics isn't working."

"The testing's gone great, which is why we've been stopping and starting a lot," Seltz-Axmacher said. He thinks Florida will be the site of more testing in the future.

Seltz-Axmacher says they'll be drilling workers on getting into the truck quickly after it stops. After that, more closed-road testing to bring the project closer to its first fully unmanned test on a public highway. He expects to see the first unmanned trucks on the open road in a couple of years.

Rather than displacing human truckers entirely, Seltz-Axmacher believes his company will make their jobs much more bearable.

"The typical drivers are forced to drive long hours.... and as a result, there are just not enough drivers." Seltz-Axmacher says the Starsky technology should make it possible for truckers to report to an office, drive their trucks remotely for a normal shift, and go home to their families.

Photo Credit: Starsky Robotics

Listen to Gordon Byrd's interview with Stefan Seltz-Axmacher.

Self-driving truck on Florida roadways

Self-driving truck on Florida roadways

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