Smart cities and artificial intelligence (AI) have become good friends! AI has gone a long way in making cities connect with technology effectively and operate collaboratively defining new routes to capabilities and opportunities.
One of the sectors where AI is constantly evolving is transportation. This has encouraged smart cities to work on the biggest long term vision of bringing efficiency and effectiveness with full connectivity. It has created an environment where self-driving cars, trucks, buses all talk with each other with smart highways, smart parking lots, traffic lights along with those who are monitoring them. This entire system will give rise to an improbable extent of efficiency and safety. It will save time, fuel, lives and eventually money.
Augmenting the capacity to make use of other benefits, engineers and city planners further will play the role of giving a new meaning to the enormous amount of data flowing in. Towards the bigger picture, it will enhance safety, health, and economic growth.
However, all this will remain hypothetical until self-driving cars enter roads along with AI trucks and buses. Although the term self-driving car has much turned into a buzzword, it will assume its role years after self-driving trucks have hit the road. According to experts, both AI cars and AI trucks make use of almost the same technology, but their rollout dates would not be the same. This means that you will be able to see an AI truck operating in the real world much before the self-driving cars who still need to prepare to drive on the chaotic roads of smart cities.
How Different Are AI Trucks?
The role of trucks in different sectors of smart cities is much more nuanced than cars. If we talk in terms of the features, trucks take longer stop time than cars and owing to their size they have less flexibility to move in order to evade an accident.
On the flip side, the way trucks are deployed, makes the use of AI economically viable, especially in the commercial sector. For instance, the trucks that need to operate in a private property will have much simplified legal and technical concerns with the collaboration of AI-based autonomous system.
The Different Stages Of Roll Out
The rollout of AI trucks is anticipated to take place in a series of steps. Majority of companies working towards the goal are not focusing on eliminating human presence in the truck. The most advanced level of automation where no human presence is required is defined as ‘level 5 automation’. Precisely, advancement at this scale is not going to happen for many years to come.
The truck industry could see huge financial returns even from semi-autonomous freight system. Hence, companies are researching ways to augment the combined role of human and AI in order to make journeys safer and more cost-effective. The focus is on level 4 automation where the trucks are allowed to take over the steering wheel only under specific conditions (not all).
Recent studies and simulations have revealed that even a partial integration of automation could greatly increase ROI for commercial truck technologies.
The Findings On Level 4 Automation
Researchers have tested the capabilities of semi-autonomous trucks and these are the results.
Driving On Highway – The semi-autonomous truck would drive alone on the highway but other complex things like driving in the city, facing bad rural roads or loading will be handled by the driver. While the AI is driving on the highway, the driver would get some free time to sleep or finish up other tasks like paperwork.
Considering ideal conditions, one driver accompanied by semi-autonomous truck could effectively manage work that requires three drivers. As per the American Transportation Research Institute, a driver’s wages are 40% of the marginal cost per mile for motor carriers. Hence, straightaway, it leads to a reduction in costs.
Otto (taken by Uber for $680 million) conducted the world’s first shipment by a self-driving truck. The company exhibited the exit-to-exit approach where the driver managed the difficult task of getting the truck on a highway where the AI begins its role. In this study, when the truck drove on the highway, the driver was not sitting on the driver’s seat but present in the sleeper berth.
Multiple Trucks Driving Together – A company in Silicon Valley is developing a technology to enhance the fuel usage of multiple AI-based trucks driving very close to each other. The research shows that when this happens the lead truck reduces the fuel usage by 4.5% whereas the ones behind save fuel by 10%.
This pattern of driving known as ‘Platooning’ is dangerous if done by human drivers but autonomous technology can make it happen safely.
Driving On Private Property – A number of large facilities have started experimenting with autonomous trucks. As these facilities are smaller in space, have defined routes and low traffic, the AI trucks are most likely to reach level 5 autonomy earlier in this case.
Volvo has begun implementing its AI technology in a private environment. Recently, the company demonstrated the world’s first fully autonomous truck in the underground mine of Kristineberg. In fact, Volvo autonomous trucks have already hit the real world roads.
AI Trucks Will Be Here In 4 To 5 Years
Reports show that existing trucks could be equipped with autonomous driving technologies. Experts believe that impactful adoption of autonomous trucks is possible earlier than predicted.
According to the International Transport Forum, an intergovernmental organisation with 57 member nations, driverless trucks could become a common reality on many roads within a decades time. AI could replace about 50-70% of the drivers by 2030.
First Smart City To Give Public The Real Experience With AI Trucks
Before technology is rolled out, it is important for people to experience its working. While AI happens to be operating in the background, people are unaware of its real knowledge. The change that occurs with the deployment of AI impacts us all. Hence, learning tends to be at the heart of any technological innovation.
Going forward, in an attempt to let people have a walk-through of the technology, the smart city of Espoo will help citizens come face to face with AI and get the opportunity to know more about it.
The City of Espoo, Microsoft Finland, Lenovo and Omnia are introducing an AI truck tour in which the citizens will get to learn how AI operates in the practical environment.
The AI truck tour is designed to have an escape room game in which a team of 4 to 6 participants will solve three tasks that help them understand how data, learning and algorithms in AI play their roles.
It will be a 10 to 20 minutes long game which is created on Professor Spark Plug. He is a forward-thinking researcher who has developed robots and artificial intelligence, all his life and envisioned how AI can help mankind with the existing and future challenges.
Inside the truck, visitors meet a robot that interacts with them as a part of the game. Players watch how the robot learns and understands the character of data and algorithm in AI. While the game is on, visitors get a picture of how AI could help mankind in the future.
In addition, this truck tour also has a separate area where visitors get the opportunity to explore facial and speech recognition and voice control, for example.
What could be better than learning through a game? With such tech tours, smart cities can open up generously and allow people to connect closely. Wouldn’t this help people provide better feedback over smart city developments?