Look, no hands!

你瞧,沒有手!

A driverless lorry takes on the “Top Gear” track

無人駕駛汽車駛上“瘋狂汽車秀”的車道

It is ready to start earning a living

準備開始自力更生


Thanks to “Top Gear”, a British television show for motoring enthusiasts that is now a global brand, a former second-world-war airfield called Dunsfold has become one of the best known testing tracks in the world. On October 15th, however, instead of reverberating to the roar of supercars driven by the show’s anonymous racing driver, the Stig, it witnessed the sight of what appeared to be the cabless trailer of an articulated lorry belting almost silently around the course at over 80kph.

多虧了“瘋狂汽車秀”這檔面向汽車愛好者、享譽全球的英國電視節目,二戰使用的“敦斯福德”機場已成為世界最知名的試車場之一。但10月15日這天,場上沒有匿名賽車手“試替哥”駕駛超級跑車發出的咆哮,而是像被鉸接式貨車牽引的無電纜掛車,以80公里以上的時速幾乎悄無聲息地繞著車道飛馳。

The Pod (see picture), as this vehicle is known, was made by Einride, a Swedish firm founded in 2016 by Robert Falck, an engineer who used to work for Volvo. Mr Falck thinks that the technology of vehicle autonomy, long experimental, has now evolved sufficiently for driverless goods vehicles to begin earning their livings properly. Some Pods are already in trials for real jobs: running between warehouses, hauling logs from forests and delivering goods for Lidl, a supermarket group.

這輛車名為“波德”,由瑞典公司Einride制造,工程師羅伯特·法爾克在2016年創立了這家公司,他曾在沃爾沃公司工作。法爾克先生認為,經過長期試驗的汽車自主化技術足以使無人駕駛貨車開始自力更生。有些“波德”已被試用于實際工作:奔走于倉庫之間,從森林運回木材,為超市集團Lidl送貨。


The second difference from most other attempts at vehicle autonomy is Einride’s approach to the word “autonomy”. Some makers take the idea literally, and aim to keep humans out of the decision-making loop entirely. Others, often prompted by traffic regulations, arrange things so that a normally passive human occupant can take the controls if necessary. Pods represent a third way. They always have a human in the loop to keep an eye on what is happening and to take over the driving for a difficult manoeuvre or if something goes wrong. But this human operates remotely.

Einride公司在實現車輛“自主性”的方法上也與多數制造商不同。有些制造商從字面理解“自主性”,旨在將人類完全排除在決策之外。其他制造商往往在交通法規的驅使下進行安排,通常保持被動的人類駕駛員在必要時接手控制?!安ǖ隆辈扇×说谌N方式,由人類全程參與決策,密切關注實時狀況,接手困難的操控或處理差錯,但駕駛員是從遠程操控的。

Having the driver sitting back at hq rather than in the vehicle itself is a departure from convention, but not a huge one. Aerial drones are usually controlled in this way. The radical step is that Mr Falck believes you do not need a remote driver for each Pod. Einride already uses one person to control two Pods, but plans eventually for a single driver to look after ten.

駕駛員坐在總部而不是車內是有悖于慣例的做法,但并不嚴重??罩袩o人機通常采取這種操縱方式。激進的是福爾克先生認為,無需為每臺“波德”配一名遙控駕駛員。目前,Einride公司使用一人操縱兩輛“波德”,最終計劃由一名駕駛員監控十輛“波德”。

How regulators will take to that for use on open roads remains to be seen. Much will depend on how often the remote driver has to intervene. If not very often then monitoring simultaneous Pods might be considered acceptable. Again, this could come about in a similar way to that in which drones have entered the market. At first regulators banned flights that were out-of-sight of the remote pilot, but as operating experience has shown such flights to be safe, they are often allowed these days. Now, some test flights using multiple drones controlled by one remote pilot have been given permission.

監管部門是否接受“波德”以這種方式駛上公路有待于觀察,這主要取決于遙控駕駛員不得不干預“波德”的頻繁程度。如果不太頻繁,那么同時監控多輛“波德”有可能被接受。同樣,這與無人機進入市場的方式相類似。起初,監管部門禁止無人機離開遙控飛行員的視線,但隨著操縱經驗證明這種飛行的安全性,現在通常是被允許的。在當今的一些試飛中,一名遙控飛行員操縱多架無人機已得到允許。

Having tested the area-restricted version of the Pod, Einride is now developing Pods intended to venture onto local roads, and one suitable for motorways is planned for 2023—with remote operators, if allowed. Though Pods working in private enclosed areas have their speeds restricted to 30kph or so, to help with multiple remote-monitoring, those intended for public roads will operate at higher speeds and be equipped with more powerful, long-range sensors. All these vehicles, if successful, promise not only a change in the way that goods are delivered, but also the possibility of another of the oddball races that “Top Gear” is famous for—between the Stig in a conventional lorry and, with its speed governor disabled for the day, the electronic system guiding one of Mr Falck’s creations.

Einride試驗了區域受限的“波德”后,正在研發駛上地方道路的“波德”,預計2023年研發出適合在高速公路上行駛的“波德”——如果得到允許將配有遙控駕駛員。盡管“波德”在私有封閉區域的行駛時速被限制在30公里左右,以幫助遠程多重監控,但打算駛上公路的“波德”將提高時速,配備更強大、更遠程的傳感器。如果成功,它們不僅有望改變貨運方式,而且可能促成又一場令“瘋狂汽車秀”出名的奇特比賽——一方是駕駛傳統貨車的“試替哥”,另一方是比賽當天禁用調速器的電子控制系統,引導福爾克先生的一項發明。