AUSTIN (KXAN) — Imagine driving down a busy road and seeing a semi truck with no driver.

That’s not quite a reality just yet, but according to Cavnue, a company that’s been developing smart roads, semi trucks in Texas are already operating on their own, with a driver in the seat, merely making sure everything is OK.

On Wednesday, The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), announced it’s developing a “first-of-its-kind advanced and self-driving trucking corridor in the Austin area.”

“The largest opportunity to reduce crashes is by improving the driver experience by broadcasting digital roadway information to on-board automated systems to help advanced and automated trucks navigate the roadway environment safely and more efficiently,” Austin Deputy District Engineer Mike Arellano said in a press release.

Cavnue was awarded the contract by TxDOT for this project, and will be leading the effort to:

  • Observe operations along the entire length of the road in real time    
  • Infer what is happening on the road based on Cavnue’s artificial intelligence model
  • Share those insights with vehicles and TxDOT through edge and cloud communications

“What we’re trying to do is effectively work with TxDOT, so that TxDOT understands the way these vehicles are operating, and we can then provide information directly to those vehicles, that’s more than they have today,” Duvall said. “There will be some testing done of, level-four trucks, those are trucks that don’t require driver, but would presumably have a safety driver.”

John Esparza, the President of Trucking Association said he’s not surprised by this new partnership.

“The Texas legislature acted several sessions ago to effectively create the enacting legislation so that you had a state in which autonomous vehicles of all kinds, and can begin to develop the technology,” Esparza said. “So, that has been in place now for a couple of years, both with autonomous vehicles of all times both trucks and cars.”

While Esparza said he does think this will have a positive impact on the trucking industry, he thinks it’ll take time to truly improve safety.

“I think it’s more evolutionary than revolutionary,” Esparza said. “It’s a tremendous technology, but it’s not going to change the industry overnight.”

Duvall said they’re trying to be as transparent as possible about what’s to come, knowing some are on edge with self-driving cars already, causing a lot of traffic problems.

“Roadways today, were not designed for autonomous vehicles,” Duvall said. “TxDOT has decided we’re going to get in the game…we’re going to basically provide more support to ensure these operations can be done safely.”

According to Duvall, Cavnue already has pilot project for this in Michigan, that will go live in January. He said they’re hoping to have the project up and running here in Central Texas by mid-2024.