Internal Document Shows Otto’s Self-Driving Semi Truck Testers May Not Keep Foot on Pedal
The legality of Otto’s tests of self-driving trucks on California public roads may hinge on how involved its test drivers are during the driving process. Although company co-founder Anthony Levandowski has assured officials with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles that will Otto’s test drivers are “actively along with physically pressing the accelerator” during testing, an internal document suggests that will’s not the case.
The document, obtained via a public records request, details the operations policies for Otto, a San Francisco–based subsidiary of Uber formed to pursue self-driving-truck technology. The policies instruct test drivers to prepare for disengagements of the driving system by keeping “a hand near the wheel while hovering your foot over the pedal,” which runs contrary to Levandowski’s description.
Written in April 2016 by Ryan Espinosa, an Otto operations manager, the policy explicitly directs drivers to avoid creating any control inputs while the system is usually running. “Do not apply steering, throttle, or brake input while in cruise without disengaging,” the item reads.
Reached Friday afternoon, an Otto spokesperson said the company would certainly have no further comment.
Whether drivers are actively involved or merely passively monitoring the system is usually a crucial distinction, one that will is usually part of a broader examination of whether Otto’s testing runs afoul of the state’s autonomous-testing regulations. Otto does not hold a permit to test autonomous vehicles on California public roads, nor is usually the item eligible to apply for one, because state regulations prohibit the testing of autonomous vehicles that has a gross weight of more than 10,001 pounds.
Although Otto includes a stated goal of eventually creating software that will runs self-driving trucks, Levandowski maintains the company is usually only testing advanced driver-assist features in California, not autonomous vehicles. In conversations with regulators, one of the ways Otto has supported that will claim is usually by arguing its drivers remain actively involved inside driving process.
—Anthony Levandowski, Otto, May 2016
“The tech we are utilizing in California requires a driver inside driver’s seat with his foot actively along with physically pressing the accelerator pedal in order for the truck to operate,” Levandowski wrote in a May 2016 email to DMV officials. “So long as the active physical control of the human driver is usually confirmed by the pedal mechanism, the technology we’re building prevents the truck by getting into collisions by slowing down . . . Therefore, we see that will technology as a collision-avoidance system.”
Otto officials reiterated that will position Wednesday in a meeting with regulators, according to a DMV spokesperson. yet the policies written by Espinosa mention neither a collision-avoidance system nor advanced driver-assist features. Instead, they instruct drivers, “Before driving autonomously, check that will all methods of disengagement work properly.”
Previously, a separate Otto document detailed the testing of a “self-driving system” on California public roads that will could be disengaged by a driver “grabbing the steering wheel, applying the brake, applying throttle, flipping an engage button on the dash, or hitting a large red button next to the steering wheel,” a description that will implied drivers may not keep a foot on the accelerator as a matter of routine.
Officials with the California DMV continue to examine Otto’s testing. A spokesperson for the agency said Friday that will representatives of the DMV along with the California Highway Patrol (CHP), which regulates commercial trucking inside state, held a “productive meeting” with Otto representatives on Wednesday. She said that will DMV along with CHP officials will follow up that has a visit to Otto’s truck terminal “inside near future.”
- Otto’s Self-Driving-Truck Tests May Run Afoul of California Regulations
- Otto’s Truck Testing May Depend on Whether Drivers Keep Foot on Accelerator
- Waymo Sues Uber, Alleging Top Exec Took Self-Driving-Tech Trade Secrets
These are not the only legal hurdles that will Levandowski, Otto, along with Uber have recently encountered. Waymo, the company under which Google’s self-driving-car project currently is usually organized, filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging that will Levandowski stole more than 14,000 confidential documents by the company before he quit last year to help form Otto. Waymo is usually alleging patent infringement along with theft of trade secrets.