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How will the emergence of automated steering capabilities in trucking change on-road safety? The introduction of active steering features in commercial trucks represents the next evolutionary stage for the onboard safety and collision mitigation systems available on the market today. However, how will this affect the driver experience? Will steering features such as lane-keeping assist begin to reduce driver fatigue? To help answer some of these questions, host Seth Clevenger speaks with experts Dan Williams, director of ADAS and autonomy at ZF Group, and Jason Roycht, vice president and regional business leader for commercial vehicles at Bosch North America. Tune in to find out how automation is steering us towards the future.


Jason Roycht is vice president and regional business leader of the Commercial Vehicle and Off-Road division for Bosch in North America. In this role, Roycht works with Bosch’s business units and sales organizations to guide the company’s growth strategy in North America, with a focus on cross-divisional opportunities and new technology.

Dan Williams is a Director of ADAS And Autonomy at ZF Friedrichshafen AG. In this role, he leads the department of ADAS, Autonomy and Integrated Vehicle control systems for the ZF commercial Vehicle Technology. Previous to this current position, Dan has worked in engineering and planning positions of increasing responsibilities in passenger car suspension and commercial vehicle steering business units for 30+ years.

Jason Roycht

Dan Williams

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Episode Transcript

Dan Ronan: From Transport Topics in Washington, D.C., this is RoadSigns. Here is your host, Seth Clevenger.

Seth Clevenger: Thank you for listening to RoadSigns, the podcast series from Transport Topics that explores the trends and technologies that are shaping the future of trucking. In this episode, we're going to delve into one of the biggest developments in commercial vehicle technology on the near-term horizon: the introduction of automated steering features in commercial trucks. Steering assistance capabilities represent the next evolutionary stage for the active safety and collision mitigation systems available in the market today. Active steering will enable features such as Lane Keeping Assist, which will provide automatic steering corrections to help keep the truck from drifting out of its lane along with a range of other safety functions. These types of active steering features are becoming increasingly common in the passenger car market. But how quickly will this technology take hold in commercial trucking? And how will change the driver experience? We'll set out to answer those questions in this episode. Active steering could be an opportunity to boost safety and reduce driver fatigue. However, it will be essential for drivers to understand the capabilities and limitations of the technology. These new driver assist systems could also help pave the way for higher levels of automation in the future.

To help us better understand all of these possibilities, we're going to speak with two of the largest industry suppliers involved in the development of active steering for trucks. Later in the program, I'll bring in Jason Roycht, Vice President and regional business leader for commercial vehicles at Bosch, North America.

But first, I'm pleased to welcome Dan Williams, director of ADAS and Autonomy at ZF. Thanks for joining us, Dan.

Dan Williams: Great to be here, Seth.

Seth Clevenger: One of the big developments on the near-term horizon for commercial trucks is the emergence of automated steering capabilities and ZF is one of the major industry suppliers that’s developing this technology for commercial trucks. Now, Dan, why is this an important development for the future of the trucking industry and why should fleets be paying attention to this?

Dan Williams: Well, when we talk about automated steering capabilities, we're looking to improve safety and efficiency. You could say that automated steering capabilities allow safety improvements through things like advanced driver assistance systems. A good example of this is something like lane keeping when we start integrating sensors with the steering function to keep the vehicle in the lane. As technology progresses more and more then we can move sort of in an evolutionary way into autonomous driving-type steering systems. And there we get to have real efficiency advantages. ADAS is more of a safety play. Automated driving is an efficiency play. And along the way we can also look to things like electric actuated steering systems that would be particularly attractive to electrically powered vehicles that could improve emissions and fuel economy.

Seth Clevenger: You mention Lane Keeping Assist as a, you know, an early form of active steering and those capabilities are already available in the passenger car market. But what are the challenges associated with adapting that to commercial trucks?

Dan Williams: Well, you're right, Seth. They're available in the passenger car market. And that's a real opportunity that our industry has to be able to transfer that kind of technology across from high-volume passenger car business that can support a lot of scale and the R&D activities to a commercial vehicle market that will value really the evolutionary adoption of this kind of technology. But it's not just a simple walk across. As you've mentioned, and the basic thing that has to be addressed when we walk that technology across it, just the commercial vehicles are bigger and they're bigger in a lot of ways. One is they're heavier and they have a solid high-beam front axle. So what that means is the steering loads and steering inputs from the road are more significant with commercial vehicles. Commercial vehicles are wider. So when you talk about lane keeping, there's kind of less of a margin for error that turns a lane center deviation into a lane departure. So the lane keeping is a little bit trickier to do with commercial vehicles. And also commercial vehicles are longer and sometimes they're articulated in the combination of those things. That's a really interesting occurrence where commercial vehicle drivers a lot of times don't want to drive in the center of the lane. A lot of times they want to kind of deviate about the center position to keep their long vehicle or their articulated trailer within the lane boundary. And, you know, that's a phenomenon that just doesn't occur in passenger cars.

Seth Clevenger: Definitely a different world in commercial vehicles versus a passenger car. So a lot to think about there. But we do see truck manufacturers really across the board and big industry suppliers, like ZF, investing in active steering. But what's unclear, I think, is just how quickly fleets are going to choose to adopt that technology as it reaches the market. What do you expect to see in terms of the pace of adoption for active steering?

Dan Williams: Well, it's really hard to say. I mean, we think directionally it's going to come for sure. I think you can look at something like Lane Keeping that we talked about earlier. We see Lane Keeping coming in the very near future.

And we have high hopes that a Lane Keeping Assist system or LKA will dramatically reduce and prevent roadway departures. And if you look at all the different categories of accidents, a lot of them are decreasing but roadway departures, as it turns out, are really sort of an increasing categorization of accidents that we think we can address through lane keeping. And once we get sort of a critical mass and again, lane keeping would be, you know, the active steering actuator as well as a camera to do lane keeping that becomes kind of the lane keeping system. But once that is in place, you can start adding additional sensors to that. For example, you could put a short-range wide field of view radar on the side of the vehicle and give a lane change assist function. Basically just by adding another sensor and once you get sort of a critical mass of actuators and sensors on a vehicle, each additional function ends up becoming marginally cheaper. And I think, you know, once we get to that point where we've got this critical mass of sensors and actuators on a vehicle and for maybe the addition of another sensor, we get another function. Then I think you'll see the thing kind of explode.

Seth Clevenger: OK, we'll stay tuned for that and see how it all develops. I do want to take a moment to talk specifically about ZF. Several years ago, ZF made this huge move on the chessboard when it acquired TRW, and that, of course, greatly expanded the company's steering business. Dan, can you just share a few thoughts? Looking back at that merger and telling us how it changed the company, especially as the industry starts to make this move toward active steering?

Dan Williams: Well, it's really been a fantastic opportunity for us. When you look at what TRW kind of brought to the commercial vehicle marketplace as a stand-alone company, it was basically the commercial vehicle steering group located here in Lafayette. ZF had, I guess you'd say, a larger presence in the commercial vehicle market. So what that meant was that the old ZF kind of the legacy ZF business had more revenues derived from the commercial vehicle market. And also I think the commercial vehicle market was just sort of more strategic to ZF. So the addition of the two, you know, allowed the ZF sort of scale and the ZF strategic importance to be transferred over to the old TRW commercial vehicle businesses. So that's a fantastic improvement for us. And then as it affects my job in particular, you know what my team does here in Lafayette is, is basically take sensors and figure out some algorithm to take the information that we get from these sensors and drive actuators again.

Best example of that is the lane keeping system where we get camera information, come up with an algorithm to drive the steering. And what this merger of ZF and TRW gives us in particular is just this big sort of bushel basket full of components that we get to play around with. So it's been a really good thing for us.

Seth Clevenger: OK. You know, also quickly mentioned that ZF has agreed to purchase Wabco. That would be another huge merger in the commercial trucking industry, but you will spare my questions about that until the transaction actually closes. I do want to go back to the business case for active steering. How will this technology provide a return on investment for fleets?

You mentioned the possibility of adding safety and maybe even dealing with driver fatigue. How do you see the ROI or the return on investment for say, lane keep assists, system and beyond?

Dan Williams: Well, initially we see these systems coming into the marketplace through ADA. So again, that's the advanced driver assistance systems. That's really a way to improve vehicle safety. You mentioned lane keeping. You know, a good example of that is, is how lane keeping can reduce roadway departures, a growing category of accidents. Each ADAS system really improves safety in kind of its own way; lane keeping as one AEB, AEC, all those kinds of things add safety to the vehicle. And then as you go up a step kind of in complexity and started getting into more of the autonomous driving kind of systems where you're actually sort of taking the driver out of the loop for maybe some periods of time, growing into significant periods of time, you start to improve driver efficiency.

And so really, those are the kind of two key ways that this kind of technology falls to the bottom line at the fleets. Initially through safety improvements and then through efficiency improvements.

Seth Clevenger: How is this all this technology going to change the job of the professional driver? I mean, we're really in the nearer term where we're talking about driver assist technology that's building on the collision mitigation and active safety systems that we have today.

How is this going to evolve and how is the job of the driver going to evolve?

Dan Williams: Well, when we think of how active steering will change the job of the professional driver, you start out just the active steering is a stand-alone system, really improves the driver experience. There's a sort of age-old compromise in conventional hydraulic power steering systems between sort of low speed, low efforts that the driver would like to see in a high speed sense of stability with the old hydraulic systems. You could do either one of those just fine that to do both together. There was kind of a compromise between the low speed and the high speed operating regimes, with computer controlled systems that are generally what active steering is, that compromise is reduced. And, you know, in some cases really eliminated so that you have a vehicle that is easy to steer in the parking lot when you're spotting a trailer, that kind of thing. And yet you get it out on the highway and you the driver has a real sense of high speed stability. So, you know, the first thing the driver is going to notice with active steering. Is it just going to be a much more pleasant driver experience and then as we start integrating more of these ADAS functions into active steering? Again, we've talked about lane keeping. That's the best example. You just add at once, you've got the active steering in place, you add a camera and a lot of cases the camera's already on the vehicle. So you have the function that integrates the camera with the steering and then you have a system, an ADAS system that improves vehicle safety, reduces roadway departures. And as you continue to go and add, add more and more sort of sensors and capability to the system, you get into more of an autonomous driving-type scenario where in that case, you know, the driver is going to be able to initially detach from the driving task for particular portions such as high-speed lane keeping.

You know, the driver will need to be in the cockpit to get the vehicle from the depot out to the interstate highway.

And once he's on the interstate highway, he can engage, you know, some form of automation that will keep the vehicle in the lane for some period of time safely and let him to completely break away from the driving task and do whatever other value added activities that he could do for the fleet. And then another way that we could see autonomy improving driver efficiency is a concept that we're pretty excited about.

That said, automated following concept where you have one automated vehicle that does nothing but follow in the tracks of a manually driven vehicle.

So that's a good example of how automation really doubles driver efficiency where you know, conventionally you'd have one driver driving one truck and now you would have one driver driving two trucks.

Seth Clevenger: Interesting. You know, sort of the way that the conversations about truck platooning has moved as you're looking to one, of course, a fuel economy, but also as a potentially a way to improve productivity with an automated truck following a manually driven truck, you know, as automated steering control begins to appear on the market.

You know how important it will be for fleets to make sure that the drivers are trained and understand what this technology can and cannot do. We've seen some examples in the passenger car market where maybe drivers are a little confused about what, you know, a so-called Level 2 system can and can't do.

What's your take on how this will roll out for commercial trucks? You know, what kind of training will drivers need to make sure that they are aware of the capabilities and limitations of the technology they're going to see on their trucks?

Dan Williams: Well, ZF always advocates for driver training and a greater awareness of the functionality of these onboard systems. It's very important because you never want the driver to turn off or disable a system that could ultimately lead to more safety. And this is up to us and to the manufacturer to ensure that these systems are as intuitive as possible. We don't want to cause any annoyance or distraction. And I guess in general, what you'd say Seth, is we've said earlier how, you know, these kind of systems will improve driver efficiency and allow this driver to, you know, add more value.

But at the same time, you know that improvement in efficiency probably is not going to, you know, just fall into our laps with no effort. You know, we've got to have the drivers trained at a safer level to handle more complex systems to be able to realize this improvement in driver efficiency.

Seth Clevenger: And Dan, I think I'm going to leave you here with a final question on sort of the crystal ball question on your best estimate for when and how these various levels of automated driving that we've been discussing will actually change. The trucking industry will be deployed and in a meaningful way. So everything from, you know, sort of this next level of the keeping an active steering that we've discussed up into the to the all the way to the highly automated trucks that would be capable of actually letting the driver actually step away from the driving task. You know, how soon it is going to happen, how automated will trucks be and say, you know, a few years from now, 10 years from now and even two decades from now. What's your best guess as to how quickly this will happen?

Dan Williams: Boy, Seth I thought you might let me off the hook without having to answer that question. That's a really difficult question. And, you know, if I had an answer for it, you know, I'd be, you know, out playing the stock market right now for sure. You know, a bit.

I mean, I'll give you a guess. You know, and it's it's just my guess. And it's probably as good as anybody's guess. You know, I think we're going to see these level two systems really appear on commercial vehicles in the next five years.

You know, I talked about how, those start out appearing kind of slowly, I think, over the next few years and then maybe five years out. I think I mentioned earlier where, you know, there could be this explosion where once we hit this critical mass, where, you know, you start being able to add different functions for a very small marginal cost. I think that's going to happen five years out. In the end, I think that sets us up well for making kind of the next step into autonomous driving. As it turns out, the L2 system, a full L2 system, has a lot of the functionality already onboard that's required for autonomous driving. And what you're really lacking in that step is redundancy. And, what redundancy is required is really kind of dependent upon the duty cycle. For example, if we have a duty cycle that is completely in a restricted area where there's really no interaction of this vehicle with the general public, that step from an L2 system to autonomous system can be a pretty small step. But if you go to more of a general purpose autonomous truck, the kind of thing that comes out of, I guess, almost a science fiction movie where somebody just puts in a GPS coordinate and this truck plots the route and does all of the operations and is ready for anything that comes its way along that route. That's going to be longer. I think there's gonna be, you know, sort of an evolution in autonomy from, five years to maybe ten years or maybe even further out before you see those kinds of fully autonomous systems. But, certainly that's going to be kind of an evolution. There's gonna be certain duty cycles. Another duty cycle that would be important to mention is kind of mentioned it already in passing is the high speed lane keeping. That's what some of our trucks, that's what they do most of the time. And that's actually in the terms of the kinds of things that cause complexity to autonomous driving, that high speed lane keeping mode is pretty well controlled. So, that will be something that will be fairly easily automated as we go through this evolution. And that'll be something to obviously make a big difference to our industry, because in many cases, that's 95% percent of what our trucks do.

Seth Clevenger: Sure. More of an evolution than a revolution. I think it's a good way to put it. And that tends to match my own thinking about how we'll see all of this materialize gradually over the course of many years. But, Dan, it's been really a pleasure to talk to you about this. We really appreciate your insights and thanks again for joining us.

Next on RoadSigns, we're excited to welcome Jason Roycht vice president and regional business leader for commercial vehicles at Bosch, North America. Thanks for joining us, Jason. So the next big step for active safety technology for commercial vehicles will be the introduction of automated steering features in the first wave of those capabilities are actually right on the cusp of entering the market. So, Jason, I just wanna ask you, how important is active steering for the future of commercial vehicle safety?

Jason Roycht: Well, that's a great question that I think as we look at what we want to achieve in trucking with automation, we need to be able to control automatically the longitudinal and the latitudinal movement of the truck. So having an electric steering, active steering within the truck is a very important building block to what later could be both in full automation and drivers.

Seth Clevenger: In the first wave of active safety is going to do enable features that we already see in the passenger car market. Stuff like lane keeping assist, lane departure protection lane change assistance. But what kind of features do you think we'll see really gain traction in the trucking market the soonest? Where do you see as the first big steps in the commercial vehicles?

Jason Roycht: Yeah, that's another good question. I think that, you know, today there are a lot of systems that are able to detect the truck is out of things, but those are not active systems with the steering. So the functionality of lanes saturated in lanes, I think also what other software advantages you can have when you implement this stuff is pull - drift compensation. These are things that are on passenger cars, but maybe not noticed today so much because as you drive a passenger car, you won't feel the crown of the road or the wind as much as you will in the loading truck. So these features are all sort of with the package of the software and very easy to implement. Once you have the hardware necessary to steer the truck automatically in terms of what will actually be the most value from either a safety perspective or a comfort perspective, I think we're still sort of learning our way through that because from a comfort perspective, driving six hours on a crowned road with assistance for four whole and drips, compensation really will be quite an impact on the driver, we believe.

But these are things that need to be proven. They need to be realized by the people who are investing in these technologies and in the drivers, too. But I think it'll be a combination of lane centering with some of the things I mentioned as is one of the real good implementation points for the technology.

Seth Clevenger: So all the truck OEM seemed to be moving in this direction, they're investing in active steering. But just because some of these features are gonna become available, it doesn't necessarily mean that fleets are all going to line up and choose to spec it on the new trucks. I mean, you look at what's on the market today in terms of collision mitigation systems. And of course, there's still a lot of new trucks that are delivered without that type of technology. So how quickly do you see the trucking industry actually adopting active steering once it becomes available?

Jason Roycht: That's an interesting point, because in the United States, these things will be legislated anytime soon. However, in Europe, a lot of these things are being legislated with the general safety requirement, etc., that are coming out. And as you know, most of the commercial vehicle OEMs are global ones that have to deal with this topic not only in the US but also in Europe and the other regions around the globe. So I think what we talk about is in two parts. One is what is necessary for a truck maker to implement this technology, to be comfortable with it, to decide to either make it an option or even make it a standard feature in their truck. And what additional benefits do they get out of it in terms of use to drive, differentiation and secondary features, but that can be offered based on technology. So I think that there are two real, let's say, barriers for it that have really nothing to do about the technology because the technology has been around for decades in principle. And companies like Bosch and others have had versions of electric steering for trucks available for nearly 10 years now. So what becomes the key question is what is the pivot point that if this technology from the OEM perspective, from the user perspective or the person buying the trucks. At what point do all of these factors add up that either the OEM either decide to integrate it as part of the standard package or that truck operators want to have this technology in the trucks? And I think that this isn't a new discussion. This was the discussion years ago on brakes. It's discussion on electronic stability control. It's the discussion on automatic emergency braking in. They all kind of come together in terms of the maturity of the technology, cost of the technology, the TCO on safety features is a little bit less direct in some cases, but all of those things need to come together to kind of get over the hump that that these features that are clearly an advantage to have in the vehicles get in their way and in a standard package. And I think the additional incentive for the industry is large to do that, all the technology like electronic steering, is that, you know, as we look to the future of what could happen and what will happen in terms of higher degrees of automation. This is an essential part of the actuation and the technology needs to be in the trucks to realize things down the road. So it's not really a question of if. It's really a question of when.

Seth Clevenger: Sure. I mean, definitely a building block for the future of higher levels of automation in commercial vehicles in the future. But let's continue the conversation by looking at the business case for active steering in the near term. How will this technology provide a return on investment for fleets? Of course, it's another layer of safety and driver support to prevent crashes, but they also get the sense that there's an opportunity to reduce driver fatigue. And maybe that in turn helps driver recruiting and driver retention, which of course, is a huge issue for trucking. Jason, how do you see the business case for active steering trucks?

Jason Roycht: Yeah, like I said before, said that it's not going to be in front of us in black and white terms or in actual dollars provided that one can realize. But when you take the case, like I discussed, of having a system that is automatically compensating in micro meager means as the truck is going down, when he rode in a crowded highway, that the experience of the driver in such a truck as that versus one that doesn't have electric steering or you know, it is requiring heavy, heavy guard movements that in general the drivers are going to say, whether they know it or not, that the truck even has electric steering.

And man, when I drive that truck, that particular one. I prefer to drive that versus the other one. And so I think that, you, it will manifest itself. And in a better driving experience with drivers that are far less fatigued, it may manifest itself in trucks that are easier to maneuver, easier to control. That's not that's almost like an indirect TCO, because you're kind of hitting on the experience of the driver there. But I think as the technologies will come to the road and they are coming to the road and there are, brands that are technology innovators like Daimler and Freightliner who have announced publicly their plans to bring active assist very, very soon to the market as these technologies are understood a little bit better. And from a comfort perspective, and not just direct driver, creature comfort, but actually having a driver being less fatigued and preferring to drive a particular truck or preferring to drive with a particular piece that is using those particular trucks that will manifest itself in, a better driver retention, a better experience. And as that, the drivers experiences and the fleets experience on the road, the truck that is saturating itself, not only just making a beat or a noise, give a lane change is happening without a signal, which is sort of saying the after for lane departure warnings today. But actually, you know, keeping the trucks center and on the occasions where for whatever reason, the truck is drifting and seeing the benefit of that of 'Wow I'm glad I have that on my truck' these things will start to be understood better, but it's going to take a little bit of time for the technology to be in the market, for people to experience the difference.

For those of us in the industry and to prove that some of the functionalities and benefits and to actually demonstrate them, this will take time as it has taken time for other assisted driving technologies like I mentioned, or emergency braking for stability control. You know, it's sort of a mixture between seeing the benefit thing in terms of safer driving, seeing that the benefit in terms of drivers that want to drive a particular truck versus another because it is easier. It is safer. These things have to come together and they will come together. And I think it's just going to take a little bit of time.

Seth Clevenger: OK. And you know, one interesting question, as we start to see this technology start to enter the market, really the beginnings of level two automated driving where you have both lateral and longitude control, as you described. But of course, the driver still has to remain aware and fully engaged and driving at all times. So how do we prevent the driver from placing too much trust in the system at this stage? And what kind of training do we need and how do we avoid some of the problems that we've seen on the passenger car market with maybe some drivers not understanding or placing a little bit too much trust in the system that isn't quite ready to fully take control?

Jason Roycht: That’s a great point. And that's one of the things that we have to be very careful with as an industry, because, you know, you might be familiar with the SAE levels of level one and level two. Level 3 is a critical point, especially when we talk about commercial vehicles and trucking, because, you know, we don't want to create a situation where the driver is somehow less aware of the conditions on the road, because a Level 3 system is going to require that the driver is ready all the time to take over control because of whatever situation is on the road. And I think in the passenger car side, there have been good examples of that and bad examples of drivers, putting more faith into a system and not realizing that they're still required to be the backup for the system. But I think coming back to the electric steering in the active steering, one of the features that comes with that is that the system can detect whether or not the hands are on the wheel. It sounds a little bit strange, but the amount of torque and the amount of angles that these systems can detect pretty much can reliably know not only what the driver is trying to do with the steering wheel in terms of input, but can also have a sort of hands off detection. They also have a little bit of a training aspect to them. And so I think there are numerous secondary benefits once you have these systems that can not only actuate themselves, but know two-tenths of hundreds of tenths of degrees of what angle is going on there in terms of driver action and also being able to detect the torqueing point or the steering, the input from the driver. These things have a lot of secondary benefits, but it is our responsibility in the industry to not make the situation worse, to not, you know, somehow cause a driver to be less attentive to the road. And I think that's the challenge when we get into things that are happening about active cruise control, an active cruise control with steering which is available in a number of passenger cars today, how we implement those, whether or not we're actually improving the situation or making it a little bit worse. These are important questions.

Seth Clevenger: You know, Jason, as you described earlier, of course, active steering, and automated steering, this is an absolutely essential element for higher levels of automation as well. So I want to get your thoughts on where we're headed. You know, I know this is a question that is reliant on just making projections and just an estimate. And we're all making our best guesses. But what do you think in terms of how fast automated driving technology will advance in the trucking industry. How quickly is it going to change our industry? What's your best guess on where we'll be in five years and ten years and in 20 years?

Jason Roycht: Yeah, that's the million dollar question, isn't it? But I heard this phrase a number of times and I think I really like it for this situation. You talk about revolutionary change at evolutionary basis. And I think that like all new technology and especially technology in commercial vehicle area, you need to have a certain, I think no doubt a lot of people can see certain business cases and certain cases or automating certain portions of driving rounds.

And I think that the good example is the long drive on Interstate 80 across the desert. You know, the way that I like to explain that is if I were to create a factory job where I had a worker sitting in a chair for six hours and doing nothing but visually inspecting things in front of him or her, you know, 100 different things and monitoring five different gauges. If I decide that is a factory job, I think I would have trouble with OSHA or whomever to say that is not a proper job for a human being to do. Nonetheless, that's more or less what we expect on certain routes from our drivers. And I think that there is some opportunity there to take over, you know, things that can be done better on automation than on a human being. It just simply is a matter of fact that the sensors that we have now in the industry can detect the speed of every vehicle a half a mile to a mile ahead in the act and be more knowledgeable than even the most professional and trained driver, let alone new drivers coming through to the industry. I don't have that years of experience to know that a mile ahead is a merge warning and there could be a 20 or 30 mile per hour difference between those cars. So I think there are certain use cases that are going to become obvious to us that this particular route here or this particular section of the US is really wrong to think about how could we automate that? But that doesn't mean that we wake up one day and every truck on Interstate 80 is driverless. It's going to take time to get out in the complexity of what needs to be done. When you remove the driver as the backup is, it's really rare. And when we talk about it with SAE level one, two, three, four. The difference between three and four is a gargantuan one and that is really, you know, something that needs to be done.

How do you estimate is done with reliable technology? What needs to work? Sun or rain, wind or whatever. And so I think when you factor all of those things together, the picture becomes a little bit more clear that there are going to be certain aspects of the whole that are going to be conducive to implement the technology. But the technology is going to have to be stepwise introduced. So what that means is, even if a lot of us from the industry say we have the technology available, that's not wrong. The cameras, the light hours, the sensors, the steering, these are all there. But to actually put it on the road, have it operate 100 percent safe, have it operate with near 100 percent uptime. This is just going to take time. So I think what you will see in the next five years, more and more companies operating, testing, running routes as we go from five to 10 years, we'll start to see certain areas that will become automated. But this is probably closer to happen in five. And then, you know, how that actually changes the industry will remain to be seen. But you could think about, you know, when we talk about modes of freight, you could think about almost equivalent to how we change from trucks to rail today, that certain aspects and certain routes will become more cost effective to operate on an automated truck on a freeway and certain routes are never going to make sense or not. It makes sense for, you know, the next decades. So that's why I like the phrase kind of revolutionary change and evolution.

Seth Clevenger: I know, it's very helpful. I think it's a good way of thinking about what really does look to be a long road ahead, but it should be a very fascinating road to travel in the years and decades ahead, for sure.

You know, this has been a really fascinating conversation, but I think we've reached a good stopping point here. Thanks again for joining us, Jason. Really appreciate your insights.

Jason Roycht:  Yeah, happy to talk with you.

Seth Clevenger: Before we wrap up, let's take a moment to reconsider our original question. How quickly will active steering technology take hold in commercial trucking? And how will it change the driver experience? As we've heard from our guests, it's clear that there is significant interest in automated steering and the added layer of safety it could bring to the industry. This technology will transform passive lane departure warnings into active departure protection to further assist the driver, and that driver will be able to focus fully on monitoring traffic and will likely be less fatigued at the end of the day. That being said, adoption of active steering will likely be gradual but steady, similar to other forms of onboard safety technology that have entered the market in years past. And while this technology could make life easier for professional drivers, it's also essential that they receive training and fully understand what the systems in their trucks can and cannot do in the future. This rollout of active steering capabilities will help lay the foundation for highly automated trucks. But for now, we're entering an era where the state of the art for truck safety is a combination of the skills and adaptability of a well-trained professional driver with increasingly sophisticated onboard safety technology to support that driver.

We'll continue the conversation about onboard safety technology in future episodes of RoadSigns. Until then, I'm Seth Clevenger. Thank you for listening.

Guest Two, Dan Williams