An autonomous trucking start-up is going off the beaten path by offering drivers a chance to remotely control their vehicles for the last few miles of delivery.
San Francisco-based Starsky Robotics successfully tested its autonomous truck last month on a 120-mile trip (see video below.)
Starsky reports that the ongoing driver shortage, brought on by challenging working conditions, such as being away from family for weeks at a time, motivated the company to put drivers in an office where they can remotely operate a truck for the final miles of its trip after it exits the highway.
“Unless you’re getting the driver out of the truck, you’re not solving anything,” Starsky Robotics CEO and co-founder Stefan Seltz-Axmacher told Fortune. “It’s really hard to get drivers; there’s a shortage of about 75,000 drivers right now and the turnover is 100% per year.”
The company’s aftermarket retrofit kit robotically controls the throttle, steering and transmission. Drivers, hired by Starsky, will work remotely in an office and be able to take over the truck at any time.
In the next few months Starsky plans on bringing its autonomous truck to market. Initially, drivers will tag along for the ride, but towards the end of the year, the company plans on pulling them out of the cabs and putting them into offices.
Remote drivers will monitor and periodically control between 10 and 30 trucks, according to Forbes.
Starsky is hiring. Here’s a list of positions posted on their website: commercial truck drivers, computer vision, controls engineering, data analysis, machine learning, operations, test engineering and other.