Tesla, Uber, Otto, and the Look of Fear I Will Now Permanently Possess While Driving | Semi Truck Repair
Prepare yourself for a long read and a long rant, people. Perhaps I’m just in a snarky mood, but this seems like ridiculousness, and well, I have to get it out of me.
To say I’m a huge fan of technology would be an understatement. Anyone that knows me knows that phone is my most prized material possession. I have given up on the idea that I will buy any used vehicle that can’t be connected to it. I have even joked about buying stock in Bluetooth, because darn it if it wasn’t one of the most brilliant ideas of our time. And speaking of my vehicle, I was recently ever so grateful for the TPMS installed in it, because Lord knows I don’t pre-trip it every time, and I probably wouldn’t have caught the air leak until my wheel was pulling and I ended up on the side of the road. The list goes on, but I won’t: you get the idea.
Similarly, my love affair with big trucks was swift (let’s not make any jokes about the company itself here, I’m gonna save that for later, k?) and all encompassing. I mean c’mon…. THEY ARE GIANT, SEXY MACHINES! And when they’re all shined up or painted pretty? Ugggh. And don’t even get me started on chrome, I mean ermmmmaaaagherrrrsssh. (Am I right, Wendy?!)
I had already been moderately aware that these beautiful rigs were outfitted with some pretty cool technology; but my excitement neared Will Ferrell in Stepbrothers level (THERE’S SO MUCH ROOM FOR ACTIVITIES!) when I first read about Peloton Technology truck platooning systems. The ability of trucks – not even in the same fleet – to link up for a significant reduction in fuel economy?! Ummm HELLO? I don’t care who you are – that’s cool. That, naturally, sent me down the research rabbit hole of technology in trucking which of course – took me on the path ending with autonomous trucking.
I’ll be 100% with you. I was stoked. Self driving cars were already being tested. I was seeing Jetsons type travel and freight movement in my mind. To add to that excitement, just a couple months later, Freightliner’s Inspiration was given the honor of being the first licensed autonomous commercial truck. Things seemed to be happening and quickly. After that, I figured I could stop paying so much attention; the next step was the testing and perfecting stage – which it seemed should take years… right?! I didn’t need to spend any more time in the rabbit hole! I would certainly read about the next advancement on Overdrive or Transport Topics.
A year passed somewhat quietly.
I flushed my excitement levels immediately down the “nope, this ain’t right,” portal in my brain.
So “beta” testing was not only happening in uncontrolled environments (which shouldn’t have come as a shock), but with just your everyday average Joe as the driver?!? Insert expletives here!! Tesla’s response was that “its Autopilot is disabled by default, and drivers can activate it only after acknowledging that the technology is still in beta testing. Drivers are instructed to keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times and be ready to assume complete control at any moment.”
At this point, I started to lose it a little. (I mean what could I have done, but that’s what I get for not following closely something that interests me.)
I. Was. Hot.
Really Tesla? I mean REALLY?! You were okay with putting that agreement in the hands of regular people, when other people (who by the way didn’t acknowledge to be a part of your “beta testing”) LIVES WERE AT RISK?
Another excerpt from the same article read:
“Tesla activated the feature via an over-the-air software update on October 15, and within days people were posting videos of them doing all kinds of stupid things, including sitting in the back seat and even sleeping. It wasn’t long before three people drove a Model S cross-country in less than 58 hours, using Autopilot to barrel along at up to 90 mph.”
Duh, Tesla. Just duh.
For a company that seemed like a bunch of well rounded geniuses, it made a gal wonder if the executives had, somewhere along their career lines, been a part of a trucking company notorious for their lack of driver training. I won’t name them here but I will give you a hint: their name starts with and ‘S’ and ends with ‘wift.’
Fast forward to present day and, God bless Transport Topics for being on top of it all the time, I read an article announcing that the ridesharing company Uber purchased the…. wait for it… “self-driving truck startup Otto.”
Now I fully admit that I’m not always the brightest crayon in the box, but didn’t Uber sorta NOT have all their ducks in a row when they first took to the market? I.e. Shouldn’t they have foreseen that the global taxi industry was gonna have some beef with their business model and prepare their opposition beforehand? And now they’re joining forces with a self driving truck start-up?! Whaaaaaaaaaaa??????
Pardon my nervousness that they are gonna launch into this Tesla-style.
So now it seems, not only do we get to worry about idiots sleeping while their autopilot cars drive for them, but also heavy duty trucks with a significantly longer stopping distance and 75,000 more pounds self-navigating our roads? Don’t get me wrong, I’d shout from the mountaintops that truck drivers are some of the nicest, safest driving, people I’ve ever met. And I also know from statistics that the distracted, texting, eating, talking, society of drivers we’ve become – are actually responsible for the vast majority of crashes involving big trucks.
But… and my oh my it’s a big “but” …there are bad seeds in every bunch. Couple those with the streams of…. of…. dirty water drivers? we’ve already got?? (I know I’m reaching here, but bear with me.) What I’m trying to say here is that the roots of problems are growing.
Deep. Deep. Sigh.
Don’t misunderstand: I am all for technology, and advancements, and such. But geez, isn’t this the type of stuff that’s beta testing needs to stay on real life simulated tracks for YEARS before ever taking to real roads…. you know… to then test some more?!
Pardon me while I drive with an indelible look of fear on my face.