Answers With Joe

Autonomous Trucking – Where Exactly Are We? (And Other Questions)

With the current shortage of truckers, it makes you wonder what the state of autonomous trucking is right now. At least, it prompted one of my Patreon supporters to ask the question, and many others in today’s lightning round video.


So Tesla recently opened GigaTexas, which is apparently the largest factory in the world, they held a huge opening party, many of your favorite YouTubers were invited to it… I was not one of them.
But the plan is to spend this year getting caught up on Model Y orders and spin up the 4680 cells; structural battery and all that and then next year finally get into production on the Cybertruck and Roadster.
And also one other one what was it… Oh yeah. The semi truck. Remember that one?

I seem to recall when they first announced the Semi, I put on my Joestradamus hat and said that I thought it would be their most successful product… I had my reasons.
At the time, and this was a few years back, electric cars were still struggling to gain acceptance in the wider market, the main reason being the higher cost of electric cars.
But I thought that they would be much more popular with trucks and commercial applications in general because the cheaper cost of charging and maintenance would make them more profitable – they would pay for themselves a lot faster.
Plus they showed how you could do these autonomous convoys where you could drive the lead truck and have 2 trucks driverless behind you, basically allowing an independent contractor to haul 3 times more cargo.

Now, there’s still time for me to be right… but the implementation of this has been a lot slower than I expected.
Everybody seems to agree that the trucking industry is on the verge of a major disruption from autonomous technology. The question is when is this actually going to happen, and what effects will it have on our society?

That’s just one of several questions I was asked by Patreon members this month, which I’m about to tackle… Right now.

Fishtail – Discord – April
What lavalier mic do you use? Have you ever studied comedy?

I took a couple of classes from the Barbershop Harmony Society, I’m just wondering if you took classes on comedy.

  • Sennheiser
  • Riff about improv and standup

Cole Parker – Patreon – April
I recently saw there was a shortage of truckers. What’s the status of self driving trucks? Otto had a Coors beer pilot a few years back. What happened to that and what’s the current state of automated trucking?

So I found a couple of articles about the Otto beer run, that was back in 2016, and from what I can tell, it wasn’t a regular route they were running, it was just kind-of a publicity stunt? It looks like they only did it once. It was a 120-mile route from Fort Collins, Colorado to Colorado Springs.
But this is a good question because I mean that was 6 years ago, and I’ve gotta say, I thought if automation was going to take off anywhere, it would be the trucking industry. Specifically long-haul trucking.

Because there’s a monetary incentive for companies to automate this, not just in terms of paying for drivers but from spillage from accidents, insurance costs, plus most of this long-haul driving is done on highways, which is actually the easiest thing to automate, I mean Teslas have been handling that pretty well for years.
So… what’s the deal?

Well the deal with Otto is they were bought by Uber actually just before that run in 2016. And in 2017 it looks like they pivoted away from automation and just created an Uber Trucking app.
In 2018, Co-Founder Lior Ron left Otto and in 2019 the other Co-Founder Anthony Levandowski was indicted on 33 counts of stealing trade secrets from Google, because he had previously worked for Waymo. He was actually pardoned later by Donald Trump.

If you go to the Otto website, they seem to be focused specifically on warehouse automation. Autonomous Mobile Robotics, AMRs.
But as far as the current state of truck automation… yeah, this is probably going to have to be its own video because there’s a bit of a rabbit hole here.
I will say there’s another company that’s getting some press right now called TuSimple that did a similar route at the end of last year, driving a truck with no human intervention from Tuscon to Phoenix.

But they’ve been testing over the last year and a half and have driven 1800 driverless runs over 150,000 miles and they hope to start retrofitting rigs in 2024 for commercial use.
It’s pretty interesting, they talk about wanting to set up a 2-tiered system where driverless long-haul trucks make do the driving on the highways between cities, and then maybe outside of cities, they get handed off to local drivers who cover the last-mile in city traffic and side streets.
But yeah for a lot of reasons like you mentioned I think there’s a lot  that’s going to happen in the autonomous trucking space; it’s super interesting so methinks this might be a stand-alone video.
Daimler and Volvo working on autonomous trucks too back in 2016

John Regel – Discord – April
If you could cameo on any movie / tv show / youtuber / commercial / anything, what would it be?

I still fantasize about being on SNL.

John Regel  – Discord  – April
Oh No! The tachyon amplifier on the time portal machine has overshot it’s return to null and is now giving you a window to yourself 5 years into the future. You have a time-dilated window during which you can ask yourself exactly one question and expect to get one answer. What is the question that you’d ask your 2027 self?

Can I see myself in 5 years? Because if I can, it would probably be something like, “Have you heard of moisturizer? Seriously, pal?” I guess I would ask if the underground Mole People will grant me shelter from the surface-dwelling mutant warlords, or will I need to perform the rite of sacrifice to earn inclusion in their tribe? (a beat) I predict an eventful next few years.

Robin – Discord – April
if the Russians seem to opt so much for poisoning, why do many seem bungled, and some survive and get thrown in jail, then not poisoned.  Is there some weird rule book?(please just call me Robin and roll your eyes — the full name is a little incriminating, lately)

I… Don’t know how to answer this. I think the whole nature of poisoning murders is that they’re supposed to be covert and undetectable. So maybe the “bungles” are all just part of the subterfuge?  Maybe they just suck at it?

Brian Beswick – Discord – April
Are we on the verge of a better boom boom machine?

This is a lot like NERVA – mentioned in my post-Apollo video I could definitely see this as being useful for unmanned probes, doubtful we’d see anything like that on crewed missions in our lifetimes. But I know they’re pretty cagey about launching nuclear material. I’m curious how much uranium would be needed vs. an RTG. Not so much boom boom but ssshhhhhhh

Mark Hoffman – Patreon – April

Let me start off by saying this may just be me…but…does the odor from flatulence seem somewhat exacerbated when expelled underwater? Perhaps something to do with the molecular composition coming to contact and interacting with H2O?

I have never thought about this. But…

So, when you fart in an open room, that gas then diffuses into the air around it, spreading in all directions, assuming there is little air movement – at a rate of about half a centimeter cubed per second.
Methane makes up a big percentage of our farts, and it has a molar mass of 14, which is slightly lighter than nitrogen and oxygen, which makes up most of our atmosphere, so it will float up ever so slightly.
And if this is your own fart, that would need to cross a good 44 centimeters or so before it reaches your nose, dissipating the whole way, and the average fart volume is let’s say 150 milliliters so what you actually wind up smelling is just a tiny amount of the original boof. (Average size of a fart – 17-375 ml)

If you’re underwater however, whether you’re standing in a pool, or sitting in a tub, and you pop a fart, and let’s say that fart does a frontal assault and floats up to the surface, that bubble that pops just inches from your nose? That has not been diluted at all. That is the pure stank.
That is basically like putting your nose just a few inches from your anus and then cutting one. So yeah, I don’t think it’s any kind of chemical reaction, I think it’s just… full concentration.
But I haven’t really thought about this much…

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