NO! Nope! Nadda! Someone at BackTheTruckUp.com had to blow the whistle and throw out the poop emoji flag, give a yellow card, use whatever we can find not nailed down to say “I don’t believe that a bit.”
On May 12th, Kodiak Robotics released a “demonstration” of a “fallback scenario.” An engineer sitting in the back of the cab on one of their automated trucks snips the AV cable, cutting the feeds of the cameras mounted on the truck. The truck then drifts over to the shoulder, rolls to a rest on the side of the road. Perfectly done, exemplary performance they exclaimed. Nope, nope. Let me tell you why and explain the elephant they unleashed in the room.
This was not a “perfect” pullover…
I watched this “experiment” about two dozen times last night. There are two big problems I see in the video. First, once the cable is cut, you can see the truck immediately decelerate, IN THE TRAVEL LANE! That’s a recipe for a rear-end collision if I ever saw one.
We know that many drivers in personal vehicles are on their phone, “Facetime’ing,” “YouTube’ing” and/or texting. They are not “really” paying attention like they should. They’re most likely 8 to 10 feet off your back bumper, in the blind spot. So when you drop from 65 miles per hour to 45 in about three seconds (by my count),you are asking for an incident.
I may be wrong, but secondly (and very importantly), I did not see the turn signal or hazard lights activate as the truck was moving to the shoulder. We had a clear view of the dash area behind the steering wheel. I saw no green turn signal indicator flashing. Being a driver of Freightliners all 15 years of my trucking career, except for two weeks with a Werner trainer in a Peterbilt. So I know exactly where those signals are and I did not see them utilized. I’m not saying it was an “illegal lane change” or an “illegal road departure,” but not notifying the driving public you are leaving the road is a moving violation in some jurisdictions.
Stop going after the cheap pops, YouTube Truckers…
Now, for those “YouTube Truckers” in the audience trying to make a quick buck saying this was a “tire blow-out scenario,” NO, IT WAS NOT! A tire blow-out, or TBO in trucking lingo, is a completely different beast of a situation than a simple electrical failure.
If that happens, a professional truck driver has to deal with the “shock and awe” of a 12,000-pound (or heavier) front end suddenly jerking to one side or the other. You are literally “bullriding” 80,000 pounds of kinetic energy to rest. You have to maintain control and guide it as best you can to the side of the road. The power steering system on a road tractor is robust, but you suddenly get your daily arm workout if a tire pops.
It could have gone much better
So yeah, Kodiak Robotics picks up two penalty flags, and the “YouTube Truckers” get themselves one as well. If this was on a runway or private road, I would not have had to penalize Kodiak Robotics. But the company’s demonstrators performed this test on an active highway. Bad form for not following the law regarding the use of warning lights and the sudden braking of the truck. If a Kodiak spokesperson says they knew nothing was behind the truck, how could that be if the cameras were cut?
And to the thirsty-as-heck YouTubers, please know what you are talking about. This was not a TBO scenario. Now, if they mounted a quick purge valve on the rim and dumped the air out of the tire almost instantly, that would have been an even crazier scene. And I would be sending out black flags if Kodiak dared to try THAT on a public road.
So guys, try to report correctly what is going on, instead of going after the cheap buck. It shames all of us out here trying to pass on the knowledge that we drivers have when someone totally overreaches and lies about what is going on. “Fear is the mind-killer,” or so they say…