San-Francisco, CA — Starsky Robotics, has officially begun testing unmanned trucks on public highways with live traffic. On June 16th, 2019 Starsky completed its first public unmanned test, driving a heavy-duty commercial truck for 9.4 miles along Florida’s Turnpike with no one in it: successfully navigating a rest area, merging onto the highway, changing lanes, and keeping a speed of 55 mph. All without a human on-board.
Starsky Robotics is solving the driver shortage—the defining problem of North American logistics—by making trucks automated on the highway and remote controlled by human drivers for the first and last miles. Starsky has built a highly reliable highway automation system combined with teleoperation capability that allows remote drivers to navigate trucks between distribution centers and the highway. This novel combination of complementary technologies, significantly improved, verified, and validated, is what has allowed Starsky to become the first company to have driven on a public highway with an unmanned heavy-duty vehicle.
“At Starsky, we are taking a distinctly unique approach to automation and safety. We aren’t building fully autonomous trucks designed to operate without any human intervention or relying exclusively on computers to make every driving decision. We know that today, humans are better at navigating many of the nuances of driving than even the most advanced computer systems, which is why we use remote drivers to help our trucks at their most contextually complex junctures,” said Stefan Seltz-Axmacher, the CEO and Co-founder of Starsky Robotics.
In February 2018, Starsky became the first company to take the safety driver out of a truck when it drove fully unmanned for seven miles at 25 mph on a closed road in Florida. Last month, the team was able to repeat it but at a much higher speed. Starsky Robotics set a record for the fastest unmanned road-legal vehicle, when the truck hit 55 mph with nobody on-board during a test on a closed portion of the Selmon Expressway outside Tampa.
Each of these steps have brought Starsky closer to its goal, but it still wouldn’t be possible to achieve it without being fully confident in safety. For Starsky, safety is a deliberate design goal from the beginning of the design process, starting with the development of each component. Last year, Starsky became the first automated trucking company to publish a Voluntary Safety Self-Assessment (VSSA), an in-depth technical report that provides real insights into the company’s approach to systems engineering and functional safety. It communicates detailed, specific information about Starsky’s safety procedures and design process.
Over the next few months and years, Starsky will begin an accelerated pace of testing, as the company works towards unmanned regular service. Starsky plans to expand the size of its fleet, increase the driving conditions in which it can operate safely, and conduct more unmanned tests in the future. The Starsky team also keeps growing; the company is actively hiring engineers and operations professionals of all sorts, as well as drivers who want to help build the future of trucking.