CONCORD (KPIX 5) — Self-driving cars are rolling around America’s roads, and commercial vehicles are close behind.
Two Bay Area companies are partnering to produce the first generation of autonomous trucks, and testing them at Concord’s naval weapons station.
“We focus on self-driving trucks,” Otto Technologies co0founder Lior Ron told KPIX 5.
The trucks are equipped with sensors, radar, lasers, cameras, and GPS.
“What we’re trying to do is build technology into vehicles that will drive safer than people,” Anthony Levandowski, the other co-founder of Otto said.
The testing is still working on adverse weather like heavy rain and snow, but engineers say the system has several big advantages.
“The system is always alert, and not trying to send text messages or check Facebook while driving is a big thing, and the computer doesn’t get drunk or get sleepy,” Levandowski said.
The system is not meant to drive on city streets – it’s being optimized for long haul freeways.
The developers say the computers would take control of the truck as it enters the freeway on-ramp, and maintain that control until it reaches its destination off-ramp. That off-ramp could be anywhere in the nation.
“The problem in the united states is that we don’t have enough drivers and as the population grows is that we are going to need more services,” Randy Iwasaki, Executive Director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority said.
Drivers nearby were a little cautious.
“I don’t think it’s safe. What about mechanical failure,” one driver asked.
“When a big rig crashes into something, typically there’s some sort of flammable, dangerous something or other in the back,” another driver said.
The developers say there is still a lot of work to do.