© 2018 Transport Topics. All rights reserved

About UsEpisode ArchiveSubscribe

Listen to most recent episode of Road Signs





Have you ever wondered HOW we will deploy automation in the trucking industry? Certainly, truck manufacturers, industry suppliers and technology firms are all placing their bets on what the automated future will look like. The emerging legal and regulatory framework that supports the system will clearly impact that picture further. Seth Clevenger, Managing Editor of Features at Transport Topics, chases the clearest vision in this RoadSigns episode.

Get full transcript here. 

Guest One, Chuck Price
Guest 2, MIchael Cammisa


Chuck Price is Vice President of product at TuSimple, a company that is testing automated commercial trucks in both the United States and China. 

MIchael Cammisa, Vice President for safety policy, connectivity and technology at American Trucking Associations. 

Chuck Price

Michael Cammisa

EP. 02

Brought to you by:

Episode Transcript


This podcast series from Transport Topics that delves into the key issues and trends that will shape the future of trucking. Last time we examined the path through autonomous trucks and considered what the spread of automation will mean for professional drivers. This is such an important and expansive topic that we've decided to continue that conversation in this episode. It's clear by now that automated driving represents an important part of the future development path for the automotive and commercial vehicle industries. But what's less clear is exactly what we'll see on the road ahead and that's we'll be exploring in this show. There are many possibilities. Different companies have offered competing ideas for how to deploy automation in the trucking industry. Truck manufacturers industry suppliers and technology firms are all placing their bets on what the automated future will look like. The emergence of a legal and regulatory framework as well as public acceptance also will play a large part in determining how and when this technology will be adopted to help gain a clearer picture of what lies ahead on this road to a more automated future. We're going to speak with two experts in this field. Later we're going to discuss the regulatory and business landscape with Michael Cammisa vice president for safety policy connectivity and technology at American Trucking Associations. But first we're very excited to welcome a special guest who is involved in the development of self-driving and commercial trucks.

It's just TuSimple 

Chuck Price is vice president of product at TuSimple a company that is testing automated commercial trucks in both the United States and China. Thanks for taking time out to speak with us. So today two supply trucks travel down the road with a safety driver behind the wheel and an engineer in the passenger seat while you continue to test and refine your automated driving technology. Let's talk about what this will look like in the end these TuSimple trucks eventually driving themselves with no one. Or will they continue to have a driver inside as they operate autonomously or could we see a mixture of both of those scenarios? I think we'll end up seeing a mixture of both. We do hope to advance the technology sufficiently that we can pull the driver out. That does require some interaction with the regulators both at the state and federal level. But even when we do reach that state there are certain classes of cargo that will certainly always require a human to be present high value cargo especially when we'll typically have a human and sometimes an armed human presence sometimes even more than one. So we don't think autonomy necessarily means no humans. So there are there are bright eyes in areas and TuSimple is planning to pursue or at least enable potentially both of those. We certainly are art. Our systems will work in trucks that still have seats and we are designing on the assumption that even when it's fully vetted autonomous vehicle that there could be a passenger inside. Sure.

Return on Investment

And of course for autonomous trucks to be successful in the market they will have to provide a return on investment for fleets, right. The trucking companies are going to do this just because it seems cool. So Chuck I wanted to ask you to spell out what you see as the potential cost savings offered by self driving trucks both with and without a driver on board. What are the potential savings. Sure there are both direct and indirect operating cost savings. Probably the most if you do remove the driver that is a potentially a 40 percent savings from the top. But in addition we can save substantially on fuel the most. The most obvious fuel saving is just in operating the vehicle more efficiently with softer accelerations and minimizing braking,  you know planning better so that the vehicle stays at a constant speed. But less obvious is what happens if you don't have to adhere to the hours of service rules in that case we can actually convert what would normally be rest breaks for a driver into slower speeds for the vehicle. In that way we move the vehicles slightly more slowly to the destination but we actually get there faster because we don't take all of the rest time but that will save 15 percent in fuel when you do that if you reduce speeds from say 65 to 55 you'll save 15 percent in fuel costs. And that's a very large number for fleets. Next I want to you also kind of talk a bit more broadly about the pathway to autonomous trucking.

This isn't a "sleep on it" situation 

I mean we're talking about these possibilities maybe one driver assist technology. It may be that it even gets to the point where the the truck is fully autonomous and there is a driver still performing other functions of the truck and maybe in some cases we can't even get to a driverless scenario. But I find that sometimes when I talk about the subject with people who are outside the trucking industry I encounter what I think are unrealistic expectations about how quickly this will happen or what it might mean driving jobs. And I'm sure you hear a lot of this stuff too. So I do feel the need to provide a little bit of a reality check for this notion that the whole trucking industry is about to become automated overnight. So Chuck I wanted to pose that question to you. What's your sense of how quickly this move toward automation will happen and what are the real world implications for truck driving jobs. I certainly don't think this is going to happen overnight. We expect that we will be scaling regionally starting with individual states moving state to state as the state regulators open their access I believe that even when we do begin scaling up there is such a driver shortage today that it will, I believe, will be years if not decades until we reach the point that we're actually replacing a human driver job with an automated driver.  I believe what's going to happen is that first this is going to fill the needs where drivers aren't available for vehicles in the near future we're projecting 150000 driver shortage in the U.S. and that by itself is a business for us.

Disruptive change in a positive way 

(AD) At International Truck we know that when it comes to the future we all have a lot of questions. How do we take the chain off the supply chain. Will my fleet survive in an on demand world will electric charge ahead of diesel? Will artificial intelligence replace sensitivity? What's next? Let's talk about joint international truck driving trucks. You know another aspect of ours is service limits and you know the possibility of relaxing hours of service if you can operate a vehicle autonomously is how that might change distribution networks. So Chuck what are some of the ways we might see transportation networks evolves. If this does indeed become reality. Well it's a highly disruptive change that could potentially come in a in a positive way. When you're not restricted by how long a driver can drive in a day you can locate your distribution centers quite differently today because of hours of service constraints. Shippers and their fleets typically locate their distribution centers about a day's drive apart that way drivers can meet in the middle exchange cargo drive back to their home distribution center and sleep in their own bed at night with an autonomous vehicle without hours of service constraints. One could locate distribution centers at the limit of the vehicle's fuel capacity which could be two or more days of movement. This could potentially eliminate half or more of your distribution centers. It could also speed the movement of traffic sense for long haul if it takes you five days to cross the country you could cross the country in about 48 hours. Which which moves your your freight movement along.

Show me don't tell me (TuSimple operating their own fleets)

Nearly at the speed of air movement but at a much lower cost. So there are dramatic changes that this could have in the distribution network that aren't represented in the in the operating and direct operating costs of moving one vehicle. Operating cost shift in the network itself right now that's important to keep in mind and I think that's helpful. And you know as you guys move forward that's TuSimple you know your company is taking an interesting approach. I think to deploying self driving technology. So the plan is you know rather than right away providing your technology to trucking companies you're starting up by operating your own fleet to prove out the concept before you start offering it as a commercial product. Can you tell us a little bit more Chuck about why you've chosen to take that approach to the technology. Sure. One reason is technical and safety. In order to get a system like this accepted on the highway you need to drive millions of miles. If we're doing that to prove the safety we need to do it with our own fleet we don't think that it would be ethical to recruit some drivers off the street with other fleet vehicles and say go drive this around so we'll do it ourselves.

Eat your own dog food 

We're planning to build a fleet of 200 trucks next year we believe with that number of trucks and with shippers that we're engaged with to move real cargo we'll be able to develop millions of miles very quickly on the highway and we think it's sort of a eat your own dog food kind of approach where we're going to be the first ones through the gate. Working with shippers to understand how well we can integrate this with existing fleet operations. Our goal is to minimize disruption in the negative sense but maximize disruption and positive sense to make this go forward and you know TuSimple is in a unique position I think among some of the companies that are developing self driving truck technology and that are operating in two major markets. So the company has dual headquarters in Beijing and San Diego and is working to automate trucking and both the Chinese and U.S. markets. So Chuck I want to get your thoughts looking ahead, you know and where we are today. How do those markets compare in terms of interest and investment and self driving trucks. And do you envision a sort of competition emerging among different parts of the world to become the leader in automated trucking in the years and decades ahead. Sure that's an interesting question. We see the problems existing in both markets. There's a driver shortage in the Chinese market as well. In terms of the market dynamics it's a little different in some sense in China. The cost of the driver is a smaller portion of the overall operating costs. So there are different dynamics fuel savings is highly interesting there. The driver shortage is real. So all of the ingredients are present to make this a high demand thing in both markets.

USA vs. China (again) 

In addition you touch on the other aspect of competition that the states themselves, the country, the two countries and the major countries in the world are in competition to be the first with artificial intelligence based systems. China has a strategic plan to position itself as the number one in artificial intelligence and the systems that we're building are heavily A.I. based. So there's a tremendous interest in China to see this company succeed. We have a lot of visibility in China. I believe we're going to see similar pressure in the U.S. as the U.S. regulators continue to advance their regulatory strategies. And we think that eventually there is going to be a U.S. versus China high competition and with our feet in both markets we think it can only help. Sure. And you'll have a set of feet on both continents and it'll be interesting to see how this develops. You know as a follow up though maybe I could ask you just a little bit more about your sense of where we stand in the U.S. market on regulations in this emerging regulatory framework for automated commercial vehicles. There's been some movement and a lot of discussion, what do you think about the path that we're on right now. I think there's a very healthy dialogue that's going on between the regulators and the industry. So far I've seen nothing but positives regarding our work with the U.S. on the state level regulators. We are, we're very tight with Arizona where we're testing. We're also very tight with the with the federal regulators. We have constant dialogue with them.

TuSimple in China 

China is a little different in that they're regulatory structure obviously is different the way they run their state. But in China there is very strong central government support for what's happening and we have been granted very generous permits in the China region for testing in multiple regions in China. We're testing in South end which is a port region southeast of Beijing. We're also testing in the Shanghai region and both regions are very positive about us being present there. (AD) So in a lot of ways it feels very similar at international truck. We know that when it comes to autonomous transportation we all have a lot of questions. Who's in the drivers seat. Will autonomous make our roadways safer. How will the role of the driver connect technology and support such autonomous what's next. Let's talk about joint international truck and driving transportation forward. Up next trucking. Next up on road signs. We're excited to welcome a guest who's been representing the trucking industry in discussions about the future of automated bugles. Michael Cammisa, vice president for safety policy from American Trucking Associations. Thanks for joining us. My thanks for having me. You bet. And we're still in the early stages of building the legal and regulatory framework from here vehicles. But the U.S. Department of Transportation has issued new guidelines and state and federal lawmakers are looking at legislation. But it a little bit of an overview of where things stand today and what you see. Sure there's sort of two tracks here. There's a federal legislation which began actually in the last year with self-drive act passing the House in September.

How Bill becomes law (autonomous style)

And then a starring act which is in the Senate right out of the committee. Is action by the full Senate without going too deep into the house bill becomes law, the Senate of course has to approve that pass before the two bills that would be reconciled into law. And there seems to be some holdup in the Senate. There's a lot of other things going on. So it's unclear as to whether that will happen in the session of Congress or not. And so if it does not pass this session and they have to start over again next session I'm not going to place odds on one thing or the other it's hard to predict what Congress will do. There's lots of things outside that have nothing to do with these bills that influence it as well as specifics on the bill so we'll see how that all works out. The main thing that those bills dealt with were the federal preemption and the exemptions and we think those are good but these bills are only applying to passenger vehicles right not commercial vehicles so from our point of view they weren't gonna impact us as much as we would have liked. But they would perhaps set some precedent for writing commercial from some industries. Yeah but so where the action is really going on right now is that you know. Good job of trying to move this technology forward in an appropriate manner with their purview of making sure that it's done safely and properly so all the modes that the 20 minutes of National Traffic Safety Administration the Fed or hear you say even illustration Federal Highway Administration the pipeline has material.

Federal Role vs State Role 

Systematization are all looking at their own pieces of automated vehicle technology and how they can help remove regulatory barriers to getting this technology out. So DOT as a whole is putting together an update to their guidelines. They issued last year a version 3.0 now that will incorporate all the surface transportation and then figure out house flags a framework for introducing automated technology to all of the Surface Transportation truck water warned us. And let's take a moment to also talk about the federal role versus the state role or overseeing audit of vehicles. We've seen some states already passed legislation dealing this with the trucking industry of course operates across state lines for the most part. So you spent state laws to eventually pave the way for a national policy. Or is there a concern that we could be back with a patchwork of state laws that could become very socially awkward. Yeah it is a half full half empty question. And I want to be optimistic about it. We are of course concerned about the patchwork situation. But we think that's why we're interested in having a role well-defined and that can be done through a legislative process as we said but also through that 85. Now you know what clear direction as to what the committee is doing and what they expect of the states. I mean we have a clear defined role now for conventional vehicles so it is just a question how we apply that same kind of convention. But now we're changing automated driving systems.

Unification of state laws 

So I think that while the states may be creating their own things to try to move forward in their state they do have an interest in supporting interstate. So as differences may be identified between what states are doing ultimately we will be able to buy things into a national framework. Now just last fall before we adopted a policy on the development of the trucks and there was more than 24000 a policy to go through all but what do you see as the key highlights. Yes so those 20 points are grouped under several headings and so they get to have more specifics. So I think you know we've talked about one already that the unification of state laws that we can allow for interstate commerce. So we think that's important. The other one is that when state rolls to and clearly the findings are that there's a question of who's responsible here, whose rules do I need to follow. And then of course safety is one of the big areas. You know the trucking industry while we're very supportive of this technology as is DOT it doesn't do any good if it isn't safer than what we have now. And so we're looking to see evidence of safety. It's great companies developing technology there. They're working to improve that. That's their goal and that's our goal. And of course it is true the focus on the development of technology that assists rather than replaces the truck driver. So you just explained to our listeners why you think that position makes sense right now. Sure and maybe clarify that a little bit to me that the technology companies I think you've talked to several of them are working on different kinds of business roles.

Driver-less doesn't mean passenger-less 

And so there's some that are looking at sort of taking over a segment of highway and operating with or without the need of a driver. That doesn't mean there won't be someone in the truck but that the vehicle itself can control everything on a stretch of the highway. Another company is working on remote operator where the truck would drive itself most of the time but they would have a connection to a remote site where remote operated drive driving. So I think in the near term. Yeah we'll see drivers that we've already seen driver some technology in and I think in the future that will continue to develop as it supports automation a longer term. So I think it's important to remember that and not get too hung up on the longer term and remember that we're working on the technology natak trucks sooner rather than later. You know and you know let's also take go a step further and discuss where automation will mean for truck driver jobs. You know there have been some concerns out there raised by members of the public and the mainstream press about drivers being put out of work by autonomist for us and I think it's pretty clear any realistic view of this makes it pretty clear that this is not a real concern any time in the future might go on to your thoughts on that as well. Yeah and as I described earlier the different business models are out there. None of them would suggest an immediate and widespread displacement of truck drivers. Right. And right now we have a shortage.

Potential of increasing jobs 

So if we can use this technology to make operations more efficient we can help fill that gap a little bit and make the existing drivers more efficient. If you're moving freight more quickly more rapidly because of the automation across large stretches of the country then you're creating more jobs at the airports and so that one business model where they're talking about meeting stress highway that that's very limited in terms of how many potential jobs it would impact. As I said it may still be having drivers or some attendants on vehicle or or remote drivers. So there's still maybe the same number of jobs there. And then you're also actually increasing the need for the drivers either end to take a local delivery down. So I think there's a potential for actually increasing jobs in certain parts of the trucking industry. And so I'm pleased to see there's there's there's interest in this more interested in this now in terms of research and looking at it in terms of looking into it what the truck driver does besides just drive the truck where that driver is going to be needed to drive that truck and some of these business models as technology develops and the timing of house and rollout. And so I think when you start to put all those pieces together this isn't going to be something we get to the edge of a cliff and we go over it's going to be very gradual and we'll have time to work with workforce development wherever where we can to train people for the new jobs. There'll be people be able to plan for a transition if necessary.

Retention is here to stay 

But you know I think that people who are trucking now are going to continue to have their same good driving jobs for in the future. See where we are now. It's hard to imagine any time in the foreseeable future where people who want a job in Truckee will get one right as it were as a business. All of the flea's to Russos as well are all looking for drivers. Employers don't see that changing anytime soon. And even the technology companies that are developing new technology are looking for jobs. I also wanted to bring out another aspect of this is that it. And that's Google view all Asians as potential to support road safety. What do you see as the potential for vuvuzela trucking somewhere down the line yet so B2B is complementary to automation is not critical it's not on the critical path to get there but is helpful and what is also helpful for human drivers. Anything that provides more information to help make better decisions whether it's a human making the decision or whether it's a machine making a decision. Know this to be beneficial. And so adding the ability of ligation would allow other vehicles to sort of signal where their path is what their intentions are to the other vehicle. Right now for human drivers that present in the form of Waun or could be some sort of intervention we have things like for organic farmers. Think about it it gets the on line of sight like radar and light our technology rely on. And so you can find out about actions that are going on further down the road and prepare for a truck.

The pro's of an autonomous braking system 

When you think about the braking distance differences between a tractor trailer and a passenger car knowing that there's traffic stop ahead for the truck driver earlier they can be aware of that again whether it's a human or whether it's the machine and the better their chances of getting stopped before it becomes critical situation. So I think also there might be potential to get this technology to help assist vehicle drivers understand a little bit better in their operations around truck around trucks. Often you'll see the passenger vehicles don't understand the difference in stopping distance and so they'll help squeeze into a spot orbiting in a lane and then the truck driver force has to back off to make sure that they maintain proper following. So the communication could actually be you know this is not even though there's room for you technically in there to get your vehicle in there. Physical road. It's not the appropriate role for for safety. So if it helps kind of train a passenger vehicle drivers as well Hi I'm Chris development chief engineer International Truck. Thanks for listening to the Transport Topics podcast. Interestingly we've heard a lot of thought provoking topics discussed here at International Truck we are driving important changes in our industry take autonomous transportation. We know that autonomous driving technology has the potential to transform the industry especially when it comes to safety and efficiency. We anticipate autonomous technology will boost these two factors to levels our industry has never seen before. Not only will we see a shift in the role of the driver but we'll also see increased efficiencies for fleet owners at International Truck we're taking a pragmatic approach to technology working to develop test and launch autonomous trucking in a smart and methodical way.


All those new exciting technology and change is happening faster than ever and it's creating a lot of speculation. We know that when it comes to the future we all have a lot of questions. As industry leaders we had international truck together with you want to address these advancements from electrification to connectivity to digital supply chain and more so we can all move towards a successful tomorrow. Join International Truck Driving transportation forward. Up next trucking dot com before we wrap up let's take a moment to review what we've learned about the road to automated trucking. As we've heard the legal and regulatory framework for this technology is still fluid at least for now. Proposed legislation has focused more on passenger cars than commercial trucks but the foundation is taking shape and regulatory agencies are starting to get in front of this issue. Meanwhile tech developers continue to push forward more advanced driver assist technology including automated steering is coming soon. For the most part truck makers and their suppliers are focusing on these driver assist systems as the most feasible approach in the near term. But at the same time tech developers such as too simple are working to enable higher levels of automation that could allow trucks to drive themselves without human input at least in some limited applications or for certain types of freight on certain routes. Only time will tell precisely how automation will take shape and trucking. But it's safe to say that the industry is entering one of the most fascinating times in its history. Roadsigns will return in August to explore another major trend the introduction of electric vehicles in the trucking industry. Until then I'm Seth Clevenger. Thank you for listening.