Human safety operators may be considered constraints in those other operations, but in these work trucks, they’re a key asset: They can monitor automated systems while performing other jobs.
“We’re going to have the safety driver for quite a while, so let’s just face that head on,” John Beck, director of autonomy and active safety at Oshkosh, tells Automotive News. “We’re not looking to deliver any drivers just yet. Some of the advantages, whether it be refuse collection or otherwise, the person behind the wheel can be doing other things.”
Working together on a broad set of applications in both the driver-assist and autonomous realms, the two companies see automated-vehicle products reaching the market in the next three to five years.
As part of the commercial-vehicle partnership, unveiled late last month, Oshkosh made an investment in Robotic Research. Terms were not disclosed.
It’s not the first time the two companies have paired. Oshkosh and Robotic Research have worked together on military-minded projects, along with Lockheed Martin and others, for the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, commonly known as TARDEC.
Much of the automated-vehicle technology that Robotic Research has developed for military uses and city buses generally fits the uses cases the company will be exploring with Oshkosh. But these will be more akin to last-mile challenges and come with their own nuances in which the company’s experience in truck-yard automation can help.
“Some of these are large vehicles, like refuse vehicles, that are elephants in the china shop, you know — big vehicles on relatively small streets. So they require a lot of fine maneuvers, a lot of complicated maneuvers,” Robotic Research CEO Alberto Lacaze said.
“It’s not just driving around the neighborhood, it’s also trying to figure out a trajectory that doesn’t inconvenience the rest of traffic, which is sometimes possible and sometimes not. So it’s a very unique kind of behavior — not, to our knowledge, addressed by other companies.”