Thursday, October 12, 2017

General Motors Development of a Self-Driving Cargo Truck

General Motors is developing a self-driving pack animal. Correction: self-driving pachyderm.

The SURUS borrows its name from a legendary elephant that helped Hannibal cross the Alps and turns it into an acronym that stands for Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure.

Fox News:  GM developing stealthy self-driving hydrogen-powered cargo truck with military in mind

That appears to be a cab for this truck which may house a human backup driver but that's not its purpose and the cab can be easily removed.

The SURUS doesn't need a place for passengers.  (GM)

The platform features an electric powertrain at each end of the vehicle that gives it four-wheel-drive for off-road capabilities and four-wheel-steering to improve its maneuverability in tight spaces.

- Fox

Most likely you have already heard of the self-driving big rig trucks.  Development of them appears to be more aggressive in Europe where the successes have been remarkable.

The big rig trucks don't have a fraction of the flexibility for delivery as GM's SURUS trucks since the big rigs can only deliver to to primary distribution centers whereas SURUS can deliver anywhere.

Likely the way such a distribution system works would show the big rig trucks delivering their cargo from the primary distribution centers to the secondary centers and then SURUS can take the cargo the final mile or miles to the intended receivers.

Zen Yogi:  that's going to wipe out a whole lot of jobs

There's no question of it, Yogi, and the Rockhouse has been pitching a warning on that for years.  Now it's more than warning since the trucks are already on the roads and development is fast and aggressive.

From The Guardian:

Jeff Baxter, 48, is one of the 1.8 million Americans, mainly men, who drive heavy trucks for a living, the single most common job in many US states. Driving is one of the biggest occupations in the world. Another 1.7 million people drive taxis, buses and delivery vehicles in the US alone. But for how long? Having “disrupted” industries including manufacturing, music, journalism and retail, Silicon Valley has its eyes on trucking.

Google, Uber, Tesla and the major truck manufacturers are looking to a future in which people like Baxter will be replaced – or at the very least downgraded to co-pilots – by automated vehicles that will save billions but will cost millions of jobs. It will be one of the biggest changes to the jobs market since the invention of the automated loom – challenging the livelihoods of millions across the world.

The Guardian: End of the Road for American Truckers?

All of that is true but the Rockhouse sees no point in plaintive messages about the fact since we want to hear training, training, training.  More than likely those jobs will disappear so the Rockhouse sees an immediate answer in training truckers to do something else.

There are consequences to letting traffic systems design themselves which is generally the approach we have seen thus far but it hasn't been working out so well for Uber and Lyft.

CNN:  Uber and Lyft are creating a traffic problem for big cities

The popularity of Uber and Lyft is increasing traffic in big cities and driving people away from public transportation.

New research from the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies released on Wednesday details how public transportation is used less when U.S. residents in major cities adopted ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft. Many trips that could be made by foot, bicycle or via public transit are now made by ride-hailing services.

As a result, city roads are becoming more congested.


The Uber / Lyft vehicles are not self-driving insofar as they still need a human co-pilot but they're intended to be self-driving eventually.

However, there hasn't been an equivalent evolution in the overall pattern of traffic management so an improvement in one still results in a problem just as we're seeing now.  The jobs for taxi drivers are doomed and it's not because Uber / Lyft are scab destroyers but rather they have a far better dispatch mechanism than our favored Manhattan yellow cab and Uber / Lyft can get a taxi to you much faster. When waiting for a taxi can be a grueling exercise, the traditional systems have no chance.

Zen Yogi:  thanks for all this doom and gloom, Silas

This isn't doom and gloom, Yogi, since people will eventually get it sorted but there will need to be management of the overall system design.

Zen Yogi:  are you pitching the dreaded government control?

That dread is overplayed, mate, since we have an example in the FAA and we don't see complaints regarding their efforts toward keeping America's aircraft safe and flying while also driving the efforts toward keeping them from flying into each other ... which is generally the same as that which we would expect from some type of design department from the state for traffic systems.

It's easily conceivable such a department would come up with a mandate for training such that when any company will replace human jobs with robos it must also cover training for displaced workers.  Sure that's a mandate from the state, Yogi, but what's wrong with it.  We can't have the displaced truckers left with no better souvenirs from their lost jobs than the skid marks on their backsides from from when the trucking companies bounced them to the street.

Zen Yogi:  we can do better than that

Of course we can, mate, so what say we get cracking on it?

Zen Yogi:  how about yippee kai yay?

That's perfect, Yogi.

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