Planning for next-generation mobility
means a new role for the driver.
8 | Mass Transit | MassTransitmag.com | JULY/AUGUST 2018
Chief Operating Officer
Mass Transit District
Dallas Area Rapid Transit
Keith Jones, P.E.
South West Transit
President & Chief
National Transit Institute
e don’t know exactly what tomorrow’s mobility will look like and
what role we all will play in it, but preparing our workforce plays
a critical role in that.
Speaking to an audience earlier this year, Wired Magazine Editor
in-Chief Greg Williams said the job outlook growth will be in customer
related roles where emotional and social skills will be higher in demand.
An example of that potential impact on transit was seen on a recent
press trip by ZF where autonomous vehicles were able to drive themselves,
but it didn’t mean the elimination of a “driver” role.
Th e vehicles demonstrated included a delivery van and the ZF Innovation
Truck, a hybrid truck based on a heavy six-wheeler.
Th e Innovation Van is a solution tailored to delivery couriers, incorporating
autonomous driving and electromobility, with a human
doing the fi nal delivery to the door. Th e vehicle is equipped with level 4
autonomous operation functions, designed to independently maneuver
through urban settings and to avoid obstacles. If there is no parking
available where the courier needs to deliver a package, he or she
can send the vehicle ahead to look for a parking space on its own.
While the van is navigating streets to get where it needs to
go, the driver can focus on coordinating delivery times with
customers and work on any necessary administrative tasks.
Th e heavy truck driver’s most challenging tasks lie in the
depot, where they need to load and unload freight, and it’s where
companies see the most accidents and damage to vehicles due to driver
error. Th e ZF Innovation Truck carried out all of the necessary tasks
without a driver; the truck found its way to the target position utilizing
GPS and RFID positioning. Th e driver is still needed to secure containers
or lock parts of the trailer in place aft er the truck has positioned itself.
While both vehicles utilized autonomous operation, it’s not focused
on replacing a driver, the focus is to improve effi ciency and safety. In
both cases, the autonomous technology was targeted to address the key
challenge points, while the driver’s role was adjusted to take on the other
aspects of the overall task. Th e goal was to look at the entire process and
utilize autonomous operation and a person in diff erent roles to get the
safest, most effi cient overall process.
When asked about other companies showing package delivery being
potentially done by drones or small autonomous robots, ZF’s Gerhard
Gumpoltsberger said diff erent companies look at the solutions in different
ways. While ZF has the capability to also develop those types of
solutions that wouldn’t require human involvement, he said, “Th e trick
to tomorrow’s technology is balancing what the technology can do, with
what people will accept.”
Leah Harnack, Editor
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