Automated truck makes 80-mile run in Arizona

Updated Jan 8, 2022

Trucking news and briefs for Monday, Jan. 3, 2022:

Autonomous truck developer completes first self-driving run

Autonomous truck driving technology startup TuSimple said it successfully completed last month what it bills as "the world's first fully autonomous semi-truck run on open public roads without a human in the vehicle and without human intervention."

The run took place Dec. 22 with TuSimple's up-fitted autonomous semi-truck beginning its journey from a rail yard in Tucson, Arizona, and traveling more than 80 miles on surface streets and highways at night to its destination – a high-volume distribution center in the Phoenix metro area. Along the journey, TuSimple's Autonomous Driving System (ADS) navigated surface streets, traffic signals, on-ramps, off-ramps, emergency lane vehicles and highway lane changes in open traffic while interacting with other motorists.

TuSimple President and CEO Cheng Lu said the test reinforced what his company believes is its "unique position at the forefront of autonomous trucking, delivering advanced driving technology at commercial scale."

The one-hour and 20-minute drive is the first time a Class 8 autonomous truck has operated on open public roads without a human in the vehicle and without human intervention, according to TuSimple, and is part of an ongoing test program that will continue into 2022. The test was performed in collaboration with the Arizona Department of Transportation and law enforcement.

[Related: Flailing toward an 'automated future'? Over-the-road reality, more in final episode]

A TuSimple survey vehicle was deployed to look for anomalies operating over five miles ahead, an oversight vehicle capable of putting the autonomous truck in a minimal risk condition (MRC) was trailing behind, and law enforcement vehicles followed half-a-mile behind as an extra layer of safety precaution.

The autonomous driving test was 100% operated by TuSimple's ADS without a human on-board, without remote human control of the vehicle, and without traffic intervention.

TuSimple's "Driver Out" pilot program is the culmination of 1.5 years of work to develop a Level 4 autonomous semi-truck with the level of redundancy, reliability, and consistency to safely take the driver out on public roads. This is a critical first step in scaling autonomous trucking operations on the TuSimple Autonomous Freight Network (AFN), the company said.

[Related: Autonomy for whom? The independent and tech skeptic featured in new film?]

Truck parking info signs added to Indiana Toll Road

ITR Concession Company (ITRCC) is launching a network of smart parking signage for truck drivers who depend on the Indiana Toll Road.

Through a mix of sensors and cameras, the dynamic signs will provide truck drivers an approximate count of the available parking spaces along the roadway, creating a safer and more efficient travel experience. 

The dynamic boards detail the number of available parking spaces in the three nearest facilities, allowing for on-the-fly adjustments of trip plans.

"Our goal is to give commercial drivers the opportunity to plan their trips more accurately," said Rick Fedder, ITRCC's COO. "The information will assist in reducing congestion at our parking facilities while also empowering drivers to make quality choices about when, and where, they choose to rest."

Parking space availability is also transmitted through Truck Specialized Parking Services' (TSPS) Osprey platform, which populates up-to-date parking availability through web, iOS, and Android applications. 

[Related: The key limitations of truck parking information delivery systems]

Arizona DOT, DPS partner to boost commercial vehicle enforcement

The Arizona Department of Transportation and the Arizona Department of Public Safety are entering into an agreement to streamline and enhance commercial vehicle enforcement at Arizona’s ports-of-entry located at interstate and international borders. 

Under this partnership, 89 sworn ADOT officers and 49 non-sworn personnel will be assigned to the DPS Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Task Force on a full-time basis. ADOT says this will enhance officer safety as well as increase efficiency and operational consistency for both agencies. 

The sworn ADOT personnel are uniformed officers certified by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. They provide commercial vehicle safety compliance, size and weight enforcement, oversize and overweight permitting and other related enforcement services at ADOT ports-of-entry located near the state lines of California, New Mexico, Utah, and the international border with Mexico.

“ADOT and DPS have a longstanding and beneficial partnership that is dedicated to keeping our highways and freeways operating safely,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “Streamlining ADOT’s Enforcement Services Bureau with a single management structure is a better use of personnel, uses financial resources more wisely and strengthens public safety for everyone who travels Arizona’s roads.”

The agreement is set to begin Jan. 8 for two years initially and after that is subject to annual renewal.

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