Figure 1: LAS VEGAS, NV – JANUARY 9: “The Boss” a driver-less automobile is seen at the 2008 … [+] International Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center January 9, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)
We have come a long way since the 2008 DARPA Grand Challenge ignited intense public and corporate interest in autonomous cars. The decade after has seen significant investments and technological progress in autonomous vehicle technology, the underlying sensing technologies like LiDAR, cameras, radar, and GNSS that make it possible, and exponential advances in computing power and artificial intelligence.
The original focus of the Grand Challenge was for the autonomy of cars (the underlying objective was autonomous military vehicles). Later efforts by Google GOOG (and Waymo), Zoox, GM-Cruise, Uber UBER , Aurora, and others continued the focus on autonomous cars for personal transportation. However, many in the trucking business realized the potential of autonomous trucking for solving issues like fuel efficiency, safety, driver health, capital efficiency, and cost savings. Ever since Otto (later acquired by Uber) made the first autonomous trucking run on a Colorado highway to transport cans of beer, significant financial investments have been made in the trucking autonomy space. In general, autonomous trucking seeks to operate on the highway with well-mapped routes, without the complexity of urban traffic, pedestrians, and dense traffic. LiDAR is a critical part of the perception and mapping sensing suite and has location, mounting, performance, and reliability requirements that are unique to large Class 8 trucks.