George & Wendy Show

Wendy Parker

Don’t call me Shirley, Otto

| August 08, 2016

I spend a lot of time (probably an unhealthy amount) staring out the window at all the different homes and properties we pass, wondering what they look like on the inside, and what’s going on with the people living in them. I like to play CSI and extrapolate theories about décor and contents of a home by what’s displayed outside.

For instance: a nice, well-manicured yard with cute statues of bubble frogs probably leads into a home with a lot of light blue carpet, Thomas Kinkade paintings, at least one Hummel figurine, and a small, yappy dog.

On the other hand, if there’s a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag being used as the front window curtains, a butcher-hanging frame made from an old swing set, and an odd assortment of 50 gallon drums strewn around, you can pretty much bet there are guns, pit bulls and illegal alcohol of some sort on the premises.

Of course, all these theories are based solely on my own personal experience, and should never be misconstrued as fact, which is why I brought us down this meandering road in the first place.

I read a Yahoo News article yesterday about the new “Otto” self-driving truck technology, scheduled to hit the test markets this fall. Find it here. There are a myriad of things that bother me about this article, but two really bear to be noted.

dont-call-me-shirley-ottoOtto, a partnership between former tech giant staffer on a partially self-driving Class 8, is basically equipment they’ve designed to install in existing vehicles with autopilot capabilities. Using a complex system of cameras, GPS and mapping devices, the software allows the vehicle to make “real-time driving decisions,” so the driver can “leave the wheel.”

O_o (My face when I read on and realized it wasn’t a joke.)

Hi, my name is “Danger, Will Robinson!”

Also, if you don’t imagine Leslie Nielsen saying “Don’t call me Shirley” the minute you hear the word autopilot you need to catch up on your “Airplane” movies.

Let’s add in, “Have you ever seen some of the places our GPS has tried to take us?”

Honestly, if we left it up to the GPS, we’d have destroyed a Civil War cemetery, two bridges and a calving shed by now, not to mention the hundreds of innocent chickens we’d have murdered if George had followed the directions and taken it through the chicken house, instead of around it. It was a 12-foot mapping mistake that could have made a huge difference in the lives of a bunch of chickens, not to mention our insurance rates.


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Sorry, I’m either too old or too stupid to accept this just yet. My personal feeling is you “Otto” run far and fast if you ever see one of these trucks on the road.

The other thing that bothers me about this article has nothing to do with the technology, and everything to do with some of the statements made in it. Things like, “Otto focuses on maximizing the efficiency and safety of long-haul trucks, which spend much of their time on the side of the road as drivers rest.”

Um. What? I’m sorry, but you’ll have to tell me where we find these herds of trucks sitting on the side of the road just wasting “much of their time” by allowing the driver to rest. What kind of stupid statement is that? Does this person have an editor? Clearly, they need TD in the mix over at Yahoo.

The final rock in my boot about this article is the assertion that “trucks fitted with Otto software can drive more than double their normal daily mileage.” Hey, guess what, Scooter? So can people on paper logs, but that don’t make it legal. The statement is a glaring clue that the person writing the article and making the quotes doesn’t understand the hours of service. They’re looking at our yard as they pass by and making assumptions about the industry, based on their personal experience.


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Unfortunately, this is the case most of the time when it comes to the trucking industry. Rarely is the professional driver included on changes and decisions being made within the industry, they don’t get to vote on new laws or mandates imposed in the name of “safety,” in the very industry they have proven unequivocally to be operating safely as a whole. That don’t make no sense, folks.

And don’t call me Shirley.

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I think the energy spent on trying to make everything automatic is equivalent to someone telling me who I should vote for in the's ok as an opinion, but unnecessary and inappropriate in the world of reality.

It concerns me as a former driver, that too much is left for error and it's directed towards more profit than safety concerns.

I presently work as a Highway Maintainer which involves the crews working at any given spot on the roadway, making repairs. 

We take extreme precautions to notify the motoring public of our presence and we still have an occasional tire-screeching, hair-raising moment when the driver is "caught" off guard.

I'm not really convinced that these high tech entrepreneurs have given any thought to the everyday factors that are potentially deadly to all those involved.

It's scary enough watching out for all the cell phone professionals that can't keep it on the road.

In my opinion, this is a bad idea and should not be allowed to progress. It also would take employment opportunities away for future drivers. 


I believe gps systems are stupid they take a truck anywhere it should not be down roads with weight limits and tell you take a route that makes no sense


Love, love, love the George and Wendy Show. I'm not a driver, and have only been "in the industry" for about 2 years, but it seems like common sense was the baby that went out with the bath water... Wendy, you are a talented writer, and provide me with much needed levity in a monstrously over regulated industry that can irritate the living snot out of even the 2-year, non-driving "vet" . Keep 'em coming I mean Wendy! 


Spot on Wendy, love the GPS remarks... I can attest to the running through fields and through buildings... I have the latest and greatest Garmin and it is only right 70% of the time at best, and rarely takes me on the shortest route. Then we have Google Maps, which is much more accurate, but gives you more than a few options in routing which is another story... Sometimes that routing is through neighborhoods or areas you do not want to, or it is illegal to take a truck. 

Then we have the technology, and all of the associated issues with that. These new trucks are already an electricians nightmare, then throw in the EGR/DPF/SCR systems with their myriad of systems/sensors and what do you have? You have a 300,000 mile truck, and at what cost, $200,000 to $300,000? 

The insanity of all of this is getting way out of hand in an already over regulated industry. I can see the day coming where nothing moves if this keeps up. 

Loose Cannon
Loose Cannon

FMCSA must be wetting themselves over the prospect of over-regulating a whole nuther breed of cat into the ground. I can just hear them now: "And we don't even have to ignore actual drivers this time?!?! Oh praise the Lord and pass the gravy, this one is gonna cost a fortune"! I'll be 60 soon, hope I die before I get old!