REMOTE CONTROL: The truck travelled for 15km along the busy highway with no one on board.
REMOTE CONTROL: The truck travelled for 15km along the busy highway with no one on board.

Volvo 18-wheeler cruises highway without anyone in the cab

IN WHAT is being hailed as a world-first, a commercial Volvo 18-wheeler has been remotely driven for 15km along a Florida highway without a safety driver on board.

The vehicle owned by start-up called Starsky Robotics is the latest example of self-driving trucks being tested on public roadways.

But unlike the trucks being developed by companies such as Uber, Waymo, Tesla and Volvo, the Starsky Robotics trucks aren't fully autonomous - they are simply unmanned.

The recent Florida run by Starsky Robotics used a hybrid driving system in which computers make some driving decisions, but a remote human operator sitting in a faraway control room surrounded by screens and a steering wheel makes others, particularly during challenging stretches of road, reports The Washington Post.

The company is aiming to use the technology to create a "driverless” freight company that stretches across the Southeastern United States.

"When it comes to driving a truck, a decent person paired with a decent artificial intelligence is better than the best person or the best AI,” explained Mr Seltz-Axmacher, saying that - for all our concerns about intelligent machines - engineers are a long way from developing AI that can replicate people's fluid intelligence.

"The tech industry doesn't give humans enough credit, but they are really good at a lot of things that computers don't do very well. Even mimicking the intelligence of an animal is really hard, let alone a person.”

He also believes the remote-driving model will help alleviate the chronic driver shortage in the US

He said new recruits won't be deterred by the prospect of machines taking their jobs in the future, and those already in the game will stay longer because they get to spend more time at home.

Removing drivers from cabs would also allow manufacturers to make the trucks more fuel efficient, said Mr Seltz-Axmacher.