Starsky Begins Testing Fully-Uncrewed Trucks On Florida's Public Roads

The freight trucking startup takes another big step, thanks to Florida's laws allowing vehicles on public roads with nobody on board.

Starsky Robotics

Hot on the heels of its first highway-speed test, Starsky Robotics has begun testing trucks on Florida's public roads with nobody on board. According to the "driverless" truck startup, one of its uncrewed trucks merged onto the Florida Turnpike, navigated a rest area, changed lanes and maintained a speed of 55 MPH without any onboard presence during its nearly 10 mile test.

The news comes shortly after the passage of a Florida law [PDF] allowing vehicles on public roads without a licensed human operator on board, pushing the state further to the lead in allowing uncrewed vehicles on its roads. This new law goes beyond existing "driverless" laws in Michigan and Texas, as well as Florida's previous law allowing vehicles without onboard drivers, by banning local regulations that conflict with the state law. Starsky Co-Founder and CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher says it has worked closely with regulators rather than seeing them as the enemy, and that "Public officials at every level have been critical in helping us see around corners, understand faults in our thinking, and facilitate safe testing and deployment."

Starsky takes "a distinctly unique approach to automation," according to Seltz-Axmacher which combines remote teleoperation with a freeway-only automated driving system. This creates considerable challenges when describing the company's vehicles, which are not fully "autonomous" nor are they properly "driverless" given their use of remote teleoperation. 

But what Starsky's approach lacks in ease of description it makes up for with sheer pragmatism, creating the most direct solution to truck driver shortages by allowing drivers to work while still going home to their families each night. The company is already delivering freight as it continues to develop its technology, and it hopes to build a regional trucking company covering much of the Southeastern United States. Starsky plans on having 25 uncrewed trucks on the road by "early 2020," by which time its traditionally-driven truck fleet should reach 100 vehicles.