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Sydney Edwards / Freightwaves:
So joining us now is Alyx Thevenin. She is the Autonomy Systems Training Manager at Locomation and we’re so excited to have her on.

Alyx Thevenin / Locomation:
Thanks Sydney. Appreciate the opportunity.

Sydney Edwards:
Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got started at Locomation.

Alyx Thevenin:
Yeah, I would love to. So I lead all aspects of operations training at Locomation, including with our customers to get their drivers ready to work as certified operators with our Autonomous Relay ConvoySM or ARC system. I’ll use this ARC term a lot as I talk about Locomation’s approach. So just remember that it stands for “Autonomous Relay Convoy”, or two truck model. I’ve been in the autonomous vehicle industry for three years now. Early in my career I received my degree from Brigham Young University in technology and engineering education, and I have a background in product and technical training. I joined Locomation because I think their approach to autonomy is really unique and practical. We believe we’re on track to be the first company to deploy AV truck technology safely, legally, and profitably in commercial operations at scale across the country because we keep human drivers in the loop.

Alyx Thevenin:
This is super important to me because in my time working with truck drivers, I hear so many stories about troubles and hardships they face constantly on the road from long periods away from their families, and time spent waiting for loads and relatively low pay for the amount of time they spend on the job and in the truck. I feel strongly that Locomation’s ARC solution will be a great benefit to truck drivers who will be able to leverage the technology to maximize their efficiency to produce more revenue miles, while keeping more regular hours and returning home more frequently.

Sydney Edwards:
That’s great, Alyx. Now, tell me more about this ARC model and how Locomation’s system actually works.

Alyx Thevenin:
Yeah, so Locomation is delivering a turnkey solution to the clients we serve. That includes one, the autonomous vehicle system on the truck, and two, a proprietary back office system that identifies the freight that best fits this autonomous relay network model and plans and schedules those loads day in and day out at scale. Our approach, what we refer to as Human-Guided AutonomySM, keeps a skilled human operator in the lead of the two-truck Autonomous Relay Convoy. The second truck follows autonomously with that driver resting off the clock. The convoy leaves the home hub, travels 500 miles to a second hub, swaps trailers with another ARC team to advance the load, and then returns to their home hub being led by the second human driver who now leads the convoy while the first driver rests in the following truck. Both drivers are back home within 24 hours, having delivered four loads and ready to go again day after day. This approach is great for carriers. It doubles their capacity by requiring only one driver to be on the clock to move two trucks, which increases market share profitability while also cutting fuel consumption for drivers. It means much more efficient use of their time and provides more predictable at-home time with family and friends. And because our model enables the carrier to keep a human driver in the lead, it is much safer and more practical than other AV trucking approaches.

Sydney Edwards:
Alyx, tell me how are you preparing to integrate your training with your customers?

Alyx Thevenin:
Locomation is unique and that it has four real customers who have signed up for our ARC systems — Wilson Logistics, PGT Trucking, Christenson Transportation, and Stevens Trucking, who are waiting to take delivery of more than 3,000 ARC units when the systems ready. We are currently planning for an initial soft launch in 2023. Locomation’s model is different from other autonomous truck technology companies because the driver is such a critical component of our product. We view these autonomous truck operator roles as highly skilled jobs with tremendous opportunity to grow and develop in this new role. And I see this as one of my most important missions. As part of our turnkey solution, Locomation will enable our customers to select, train, and certify drivers to use this technology. This approach puts our customers in the driver’s seat. We recently spent two weeks with two of our customers learning about their driver training and safety management programs. So we can start to plan how the ARC driver training program should be integrated into their training programs moving forward. When you talk about AV trucks, the first thing you hear from drivers is concern about safety and losing jobs. Once we effectively communicate Locomation’s holistic solution built around new autonomous truck operator roles, they start to gain more confidence in understanding that this is indeed a feasible solution that will be positive for their career growth.

Sydney Edwards:
So with the partnership that you have with customers, how do you start to train drivers for this technological shift?

Alyx Thevenin:
Yeah, so we’ll be training truck drivers to be premier ARC certified operators. As of right now, there is no government certification for drivers to earn to indicate they have completed the proper training to operate an autonomous vehicle, or in Locomation’s case, to actually lead an autonomous convoy. But that has not stopped us from creating our own certification program to confirm the drivers are ready to be ARC certified operators. The goal of our training is to inform, educate, and inspire drivers by creating an environment that both challenges and supports technological innovation and progression. For those who are wondering who is eligible to participate, we are outlining standards in partnership with our customers for driver selection for ARC certification. Some of the metrics in the selection process include driver safety scores, miles driven, and tenure at the carrier, just to name a few. In order to prepare drivers for ARC operations, we have outlined a multi-stage approach to appropriately engage drivers to build up their confidence and comfort with the tech that they will be interacting with.

Alyx Thevenin:
In terms of actual training, there are two focus areas that we are planning around. The first being teaching the lead driver how to manage not only one, but two trucks. Training the lead driver includes classroom learning and discussion, hands on simulation, practice of managing edge case scenarios, close course track time, and public road operation. Second, we are focused on training the driver to function in the follower vehicle while ensuring they get the rest they need and as required by FMCSA hours of service regulations, so that they are ready and fit for duty when it’s their turn to lead the convoy. At the end of the day, all of this is done in such a way that safety is of the highest priority.

Sydney Edwards:
Alyx, thank you so much. It’s been great talking with you.

Alyx Thevenin:
Thank you.

 

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