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Posts from the ‘Freight’ Category

Nuro’s self-driving vehicles to deliver prescriptions for CVS Pharmacy 28 May 2020

Nuro, the autonomous robotics startup that has raised more than $1 billion from SoftBank Vision Fund, Greylock and other investors, said Thursday it will test prescription delivery in Houston through a partnership with CVS Pharmacy. The pilot, which will use a fleet of the startup’s autonomous Toyota Prius vehicles and transition to using its custom-built R2 delivery bots, is slated to begin in June.

The partnership marks Nuro’s expansion beyond groceries and into healthcare. Last month, the startup dipped its autonomous toe in the healthcare field through a program to deliver food and medical supplies at temporary field hospitals in California set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pilot program centers on one CVS Pharmacy in Bellaire, Texas and will serve customers across three ZIP codes. Customers who place prescription orders via CVS’ website or pharmacy app will be given the option to choose an autonomous delivery option. These pharmacy customers will also be able add other non-prescription items to their order.
Once the autonomous vehicle arrives, customers will need to confirm their identification to unlock their delivery. Deliveries will be free of charge for CVS Pharmacy customers.

“We are seeing an increased demand for prescription delivery,” Ryan Rumbarger, senior vice president of store operations at CVS Health, said in a prepared statement. “We want to give our customers more choice in how they can quickly access the medications they need when it’s not convenient for them to visit one of our pharmacy locations.”

Nuro is already operating in the Houston area. Walmart announced in December a pilot program to test autonomous grocery delivery in the Houston market using Nuro’s autonomous vehicles. Under the pilot, Nuro’s vehicles deliver Walmart online grocery orders to a select group of customers who opt into the service in Houston. The autonomous delivery service involves R2, Nuro’s custom-built delivery vehicle that carries products only, with no on-board drivers or passengers, as well as autonomous Toyota Priuses that deliver groceries.

Nuro also partnered with Kroger (Fry’s) in 2018 to test autonomous Prius vehicles and its first-generation custom-built robot known as R1. The R1 autonomous vehicle was operating as a driverless service without a safety driver on board in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale. In March 2019, Nuro moved the service with Kroger to Houston, beginning with autonomous Priuses.

The company’s contactless delivery program shuttling medical supplies and food is also continuing. Under that program, which began in late April, Nuro’s R2 bots are used at two events centers — in San Mateo and the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento — that have been turned into temporary healthcare facilities for COVID-19 patients. Nuro is delivering meals and equipment to more than 50 medical staff at both sites every week.

It’s unclear how long the field hospital program will continue. Last week, there were 25 patients across the two sites. The Sleep Train Arena is accepting patients through June 30 via California Office of Emergency Services. The hospital may be converted to a shelter for those affected by fires through the end of this year.

Trolleytrucks are back 14 May 2019

An electrifying story from Germany, where they are wiring the autobahn.

Electric trucks are a wonderful idea, but batteries are heavy, expensive and carbon-intensive. However there is another technology that’s been around for over a century: overhead trolley wires. Trolley buses are still used in many cities, which can work effectively because buses follow fixed routes.

Now a test is being done in Germany with hybrid electric-diesel trolleytrucks. They run on electricity from overhead wires on the autobahn, and then switch to diesel when they get off the highway. According to DW,

The test trucks are fitted with batteries and pantographs — sensor-fitted electric pickups — that reach automatically for the overhead cables (poled positive and negative) slung from several hundred masts along the A5’s inner-most lanes, even under bridges. Overtaking of other vehicles is intended as well as surplus power being fed back into the grid during braking manoeuvers, according to Hesse Mobil.

It’s a shame about the diesel engines, but they could eventually be all-electric with batteries powering the last mile. If the test is a success, it is estimated that 80 percent of Germany’s truck traffic could be electrified. Then trucks would be charging their batteries while they are in the wired sections, needing much smaller battery packs than in the proposed Tesla or Nicola battery powered trucks.

The biggest problem with trolleys has always been the ugly overhead wires, but that’s not as big a deal out on the highway. Another problem has been the inability to pass, but making them hybrid or having batteries solves that problem. The final question is whether the source of electricity is carbon-free, which is an issue in Germany right now.

In the past I have wondered why the goal shouldn’t be to carry more freight by rail and reduce the need for trucks, but according to DW, the German rail network is already overloaded. So this is a great alternative for carbon-free shipping.

Trolleytrucks are still in use in some parts of the world; they are cheap to operate and easy to maintain. If we are going to electrify everything, perhaps it’s time to bring them back.

Launching the first unmanned delivery service

Medium, 18 December 2018

Today, Nuro launched the first-ever unmanned delivery service for the general public. People in Scottsdale, Arizona can now have their groceries delivered by the R1, a self-driving, unmanned on-road vehicle. We are incredibly proud of our team and our partners for reaching this milestone together.

Eleven years ago, I was fortunate to be part of the DARPA Urban Grand Challenge. In the final competition, eleven teams launched autonomous cars into a mock urban environment. It was the first time self-driving vehicles interacted with neighborhood traffic in realistic, unscripted on-road scenarios. And we got goosebumps. My co-founder Jiajun and I were also fortunate to be part of Google’s self-driving car project in its early years. In 2015, the team at Google performed the first unmanned trip on public roads. Steve Mahan ‘drove’ a self-driving vehicle while being legally blind. And we watched in awe. Since then, the industry has taken further big steps towards bringing this technology to the world. We believe our launch today is one of them. For the first time ever — as far as we know — an unmanned service is available to the public. For us at Nuro, this represents the culmination of years of long days and team breakthroughs, sweat and (literal) tears.

We founded Nuro two years and four months ago to accelerate the benefits of robotics for everyday life. We wanted to tackle challenges that had an immediate impact on communities everywhere. As described in earlier posts, we realized that we could give back millions of hours of time to people if we built an inexpensive service that provided anything, anywhere, anytime. We started by partnering with Kroger — America’s largest grocery retailer — to create a grocery delivery service with self-driving vehicles. After launching this service in August with our fleet of self-driving Priuses, we’ve completed roughly one thousand deliveries, received best-in-class customer satisfaction ratings, and freed up many hours of our customers’ time.

In parallel, our technical teams have been preparing the R1 to join the pilot. We can’t wait for our customers to meet this special unmanned vehicle. Every team, from hardware to software, operations to product, worked together closely to design and build R1 from scratch. Truly joint development meant we could thoughtfully dive into everything from compartment ergonomics to vehicle shape to sensor design and placement. The constant goal: Build the best vehicle, and service, for goods transportation.

Being the ‘best’ vehicle also means being incredibly safe. The R1 features world-class self-driving software and sensing hardware, redundancy across every critical driving system, and a lighter and nimbler footprint than a standard car. In the initial phase of the development, we’ve also thoroughly trained our robot operators who monitor R1 and are able to take control at any time. Read more about how we incorporate safety into every step of the development process in Delivering Safety: Nuro’s Approach.

While this first unmanned service represents the culmination of many years of work, it also represents another beginning. For this may be the first, but it will be followed by many more: more vehicles, more cities, and more services. Together with others in the industry, we will usher in new ways to provide transportation, and more time, to everyone.

Want to keep up with Nuro? We invite you to follow our blog and connect with us on Twitter and LinkedIn. Consider joining us to be part of the journey.

Volvo goes electric and autonomous with cab-less truck

The Driven, 14 September 2018
Getting petrol and diesel cars off the road and replacing them with electric will go a long way to solving pollution problems but if you can do the same with heavy-fuel-use trucks the results are even more impressive, and that’s what Volvo is banking on with their just announced cabless truck.

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Plain sailing: how traditional methods could deliver zero-emission shipping

The Conversation, 28 May 2018
On May 10, the 43.5-metre schooner Avontuur arrived in the port of Hamburg. This traditional sailing vessel, built in 1920, transported some 70 tonnes of coffee, cacao and rum across the Atlantic. The shipping company Timbercoast, which owns and operates Avontuur, says it aims to prove that sailing ships can offer an environmentally sustainable alternative to the heavily polluting shipping industry, despite being widely seen as a technology of yesteryear.
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Time to take stock of Australia’s fuel security

The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 May 2018
As the world’s eighth largest energy producer, Australia’s fuel supplies have proved to be remarkably reliable and resilient over the last four decades. The last significant disruption was in the 1970s with the OPEC oil crisis. But since then, much has changed both domestically and internationally, requiring a reassessment of Australia’s liquid fuel security. Liquid fuel includes petrol, diesel and jet fuel and accounts for 37% of Australia’s energy use and 98% of our transport needs.

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Restrictions on privatised ports adding to Sydney’s gridlock: Deloitte report

Sydney Morning Herald, 11 April 2018
Hundreds of thousands of trucks could be shifted from Sydney’s roads by a new container terminal at Newcastle, but secret restrictions introduced during the privatisation of NSW ports are preventing its development. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is now investigating the restrictions, which were introduced when Port Botany and the Port of Newcastle were being privatised.
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National Party busy brawling over Inland Rail days before High Court decides fate of Joyce, Canavan, Nash

ABC News, 25 October 2017
An internal brawl in the Nationals over the Federal Government’s Inland Rail project is threatening to fracture the party, two days before its leaders could lose their jobs. All Queensland Nationals backbench MPs and senators have put their names to a letter to Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester, demanding a rethink on how the project is being run.

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Seminar: The Electrification of Australia’s Land Transport: How to get Moving by Dr Michael Kane

Wednesday October 25th 2017, Time: 12 pm – 1 pm
Dr Michael Kane will present the current efforts in Queensland to electrify land transport. His will also take us through some of his thoughts on whether the goal of 100% renewable land transport is feasible. He will discuss potential policies and practices that might make this possible.

Reflecting on this what will be interesting is that the intensification of road transport will also occur with electric AVs but not sufficiently to impact on peak major trunk PT. Lesser traditional PT and local private car trips will likely be replaced by a hybrid version of Uber/taxis/on demand transport. Private AV car use will have to be subject to road pricing or the road network will grind to a halt. What is also challenging from another perspective is that late night PT trunk is likely to unviable outside very large cities and slow and inefficient rail/light rail will also come into question as to why they shouldn’t be converted to ‘shared’ AV only highways (existing rail lines in Perth are all good performers). It will be a much more competitive environment in many ways, and everyone’s mode loyalties are going to be challenged. Trunk PT will also have to drop in price to remain competitive which should be possible with the dropping of subsidised non-trunk services.

With the recent pricing on hydrogen fuel cells (coming from 100% renewables) for buses and trucks is it realistic to assume to assume that all land transport is capable of transitioning technology wise for no additional vehicle costs from some point in the next decade? While there may be some infrastructure and industry changeover costs, the real challenge will be changing people’s mind-sets.

About the Presenter

Dr Michael Kane is the Director of Innovation and Economic Strategies at Economic Development Queensland. Dr Kane’s role is to support EDQ’s innovative planning and development initiatives relating to regional development, sustainable energy/water, housing, knowledge economy and transport. Michael has worked with EDQ (and Urban Land Development Authority) since 2009 in sustainability, innovation and strategy advisory roles. Before this he was an adviser for the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure in Western Australia on land development, transport and strategic planning. He has a PhD from Curtin University with his thesis relating to knowledge economy, urban and transport planning.

Event Details
Event: CUSP Seminar: The Electrification of Australia’s
Land Transport: How to get Moving by Dr. Michael Kane.
Date: Wednesday October 25th 2017
Time: 12 pm – 1 pm
Location: [Norman Dufty Lecture Theatre – Bldg 210, Rm 102]
Curtin University
Kent Street, Bentley
RSVP: Please RSVP your attendance by [Tues – 26/10/2017].
Early responses are appreciated.

Event registration
Please Contact Christine Finlay by [26/10/2017] to register you interest in attending this event.

Why the Tesla truck will turn freight industry upside own

REnew economy, 26 September 2017
Elon Musk has a busy month in front of him, as he usually does. This Friday, he will address a space industry conference in Adelaide about his plans for human life on Mars, and then is widely expected to deliver some major news on the Tesla big battery at the Hornsdale wind farm later that evening. A month later, Musk will unveil the latest of his technology developments that promise to turn an existing industry upside down – the Tesla Semi, a very big electric truck.

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