It Does Not have to be a Long Haul

November 01, 2022

Time to Market

By David Raun, CEO, One Stop Systems

Whether it is the food you eat or the package you receive on the porch, everything we touch found its way into a semi-truck at some point.  There is a severe shortage of truck drivers, and the costs are skyrocketing due to oil prices and inflation, putting at risk this fundamental aspect of American society that we take for granted.

Fortunately, there is a solution on the horizon, backed by billions of dollars of investment, in the form of autonomous trucks.  Believe it or not, you have likely passed one of these trucks on the highway, as they have logged hundreds of thousands of miles throughout the country.  Unfortunately, there is still a human sitting in the driver's seat who needs to intervene when something does not seem right.  As you can imagine, the economics and value of this solution does not materialize until that driver is gone.  It really does not matter if the truck is driving itself 99% of the time, as the 1% or even 0.001% will not allow the removal of the human element. 

In summary, investors and the country will not see a return from this investment until this key objective is met.  As with any multiple billion-dollar market opportunity, there are many autonomous truck companies with this objective in mind.  Interestingly, they are approaching it in different ways. 

Some are very focused on the ultimate cost-effective solution, which is years away realistically, and spend considerable time constrained by the performance of their computer systems on the truck.  Some might say, they are foolishly focused on short term costs rather than getting to market.  Without a fully driverless truck, there is no value, no market, no return on investment or a need for a lower cost production-worthy solution. 

Others are leveraging the work they have done on autonomous cars or taxis and trying to apply their already spent investment to trucks.  Although this seems like a logical path, autonomous cars are much further in the future as cars must deal with all the city and neighborhood driving.  Just think of the complexity in recognizing and reacting to multiple pedestrians that have just jumped into the path of the vehicle.  This city driving is the most challenging when it comes to autonomous driving.

Opportunity Challenges

Many of the autonomous truck companies are focused on what is called Hub-to-Hub, where the autonomous truck is only required to be driverless on the highway.  This is a much simpler, although still very complex task.  Just think of the value to the trucking company crossing the county in two days without a driver vs. the four days it takes now, if you can find a driver.

Some of the key leading autonomous truck companies are taking a different approach than the two mentioned above.  They are focused on getting to the market and keeping the objective to only highway driving.  Although these companies have concerns about costs and the ultimate production solution, they realize there is no value in a production solution if they can’t get to market with a fully autonomous truck.  These companies are leveraging the highest performance compute and storage product available on the market today.  Initially, some of them built their own systems with products never intended for the harsh environment of a truck, as there was really nothing in the market that met the need.  Just the vibration and the issue of dispersing the heat is a major challenge. 

Fortunately, there are now companies that bring compute and storage products to market that utilize the latest technology, but have the knowhow, IP, and engineering skills to make them survive the challenging environment of a truck.  This includes addressing the fact that a truck was never built with the intention of having to power and cool a 4000-watt supercomputer.  These products offer the latest in GPU, CPU and memory technology, including products like multiple NVIDIA A-100s packed together in a compact form factor.  These products eliminate the constraints of performance and memory. 

Autonomous Truck

Suppliers focused on the autonomous truck and the AI Transportable market in general, also recognized the need to get vast amounts of memory on and off the truck quickly.  No wireless or wired network can transfer the vast data in a reasonable time.  Rather than climbing into the truck to remove the memory, the hub operator approaches the trucks saddlebags, normally used to store some tools and other equipment, to slide out a hot swappable canister or sled with very high density memory.  The quick removal and placement of a new empty memory canister lets the truck get back on the road.  Like an airplane, a truck only makes money for the owner when it is moving.

One Stop Systems is a leader in this space, and has partnered with three of the major autonomous truck companies with the objective of getting to market with a fully autonomous truck, leveraging extremely high-performance systems to eliminate the bottlenecks in development to finish that challenging last 1%.  In addition to solutions to get to market first, OSS is working with autonomous truck companies on the ultimate more cost-effective platform for production down the road.

Let’s get these trucks to market and reap the benefits of this technology to let us continue to take trucking for granted.


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