Ever wonder what the inside of a driverless truck looks like as it’s cruising down the freeway? Consider your curiosity satiated. Starsky Robotics today shared a panoramic video showing the interior of one of its rigs during a test drive on a section of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway near Tampa, Florida, as a remote human driver drove.
It might not be the most exciting self-driving vehicle video out there, but it’s one of the few that demonstrates how teleoperators, which the bulk (if not all) of autonomous car platforms employ for redundancy, watch over autonomous systems in real time. In Starsky’s setup, five real-time feeds from cameras mounted on the exterior of its trucks’ cabins are split among three monitors, accompanied by stats like packets lost in transmission and frames per second. A video-game-like steering wheel sits in front of them, enabling operators to maintain real-time control.
Starsky anticipates that eventually, as its freight deliveries ramp up, teleoperators will monitor as many as 10 to 30 vehicles per hour via video links. It says that this could be a boon for a $676 billion trucking industry that sees over 1,300 drivers die in accidents every year on U.S. roads, and that’s expected to experience a shortage of over 100,000 truck drivers in the next few years.
Starsky, which was founded in 2016 by Carnegie Mellon graduate Kartik Tiwari and former RocketSpace senior manager Stefan Seltz-Axmacher, recently raised $16.5 million in venture capital to further its research, development, and testing efforts. One of its trucks last year completed a seven-minute drive on a closed course without a human onboard, and the company claims to have fulfilled deliveries with 85% autonomy.
Starsky has plenty in the way of competition, like Thor Trucks, Pronto.ai, TuSimple, and Aurora — the last of which attracted a $530 million investment in February at a valuation over $2 billion. There’s also Ike, a self-driving truck startup founded by former Apple, Google, and Uber Advanced Technologies Group engineers that’s raised $52 million, and venture-backed Swedish driverless car company Einride. Meanwhile, Paz Eshel and former Uber and Otto engineer Don Burnette recently secured $40 million for startup Kodiak Robotics. That’s not to mention Embark, which integrates its self-driving systems into Peterbilt semis and which launched a pilot with Amazon to haul cargo, and driverless truck solutions from incumbents like Daimler and Volvo.
But there’s plenty of cash to go around. The autonomous vehicle industry is predicted to reach 6,700 units globally, totaling $54.23 billion this year, and it stands to save the logistics and shipping industry $70 billion annually while boosting productivity by 30%.