Robots might one day be driving your trucks

By Karen L. Edwards.

There is a new robot in development that can turn any vehicle into a driverless one. IVObility, an Israeli startup is developing a robot that sits in the driver’s seat and literally drives the vehicle. It’s coming in the not-too-distant future with a 2020 launch planned for government and off-road commercial applications, with a consumer-market version in consideration.

This means that potentially in a few years, robots will become our drivers. The IVObility robot will work in any vehicle, it doesn’t have to be equipped with sensors or other self-driving technology. The company successfully develop an autonomous underwater vehicle that drives itself called the HydroCamel and is now turning its development efforts to cars and trucks that drive on land.

Whereas most autonomous vehicles remove the operations from the driver’s seat, this robot sits in it and ‘sees’ what a driver would see. It looks somewhat human, with a head containing sensors and arm and leg-like limbs to work the pedals and the steering wheel. By having the robot sitting in the seat driving, the vehicle doesn’t need to have LiDar, radar or other sensors mounted around the vehicle.

CEO Tzvika Goldner told Car and Driver that “IVObility aims to launch its driving robot by the middle of next year and intends to offer three versions: most will be fully autonomous, but some will offer more cost-effective semi-autonomous capability or remote-controlled operation.”

The company is initially focusing on off-road applications such as mining, agriculture, border patrol and security with a pilot being launch at an airport in Europe later this year. This plug-and-play style model might be the answer for cost effectively retrofitting existing vehicles into self-driving ones.

Some things to consider are if and when a consumer version is ready to hit the streets, how could that affect who we have driving trucks to jobsites and what impact would that have on insurance costs? While there is no mention of what a robot chauffeur would cost, there is potential for insurance or liability cost savings to offset or even pay for the robot.

Photo credit: IVObility