KeepTruckin uses Ambarella AI chips to monitor truck drivers

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KeepTruckin, a fleet management company, said today it will use Ambarella AI processors in its dashboard camera to monitor both road conditions and truck driver awareness.

KeepTruckin will use the chips in its AI Dashcam, which can signal alerts if a driver is unaware of an upcoming hazard, or if the driver is simply distracted or drowsy.

The system uses Ambarella’s CV22 CVflow Edge AI vision system on chip (SoC). The AI Dashcam uses a single CV22 SoC to simultaneously provide AI and image processing for its dual-camera system, which integrates one camera for the front advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) with incident recording, and a second RGB-infrared camera for the driver-monitoring system (DMS) with driver recording.

“The more the number of cameras, the higher the processing needs are,” Udit Budhia, director of marketing at Ambarella, said in an interview with VentureBeat.

Ambarella designs the chips to be able to handle AI processing at the edge, but without consuming a lot of power. The CV22 will run KeepTruckin’s proprietary AI algorithms for real-time high-risk behavior detection and active warnings directly on the small form factor device, with minimal heat dissipation.

Ambarella's CVflow architecture is the basis for a lot of chip families.

Above: Ambarella’s CVflow architecture is the basis for a lot of chip families.

Image Credit: Ambarella

The camera that looks out on the road can use CV22 to produce warnings if a driver is following too close, is drifting out of a lane, may have a pending collision, is speeding, or is violating traffic laws. Using the same chip and running multiple simultaneous neural network models, the in-cabin camera can monitor for driver fatigue, distraction, and policy violations, such as contextual cell phone use or seatbelt monitoring, in combination with data from the front camera.

“One of the other advantages of having the power and efficiency and the developer support has been we can detect more with the same capabilities,” said Abhishek Gupta, group product manager at KeepTruckin, in an interview with VentureBeat. “If you have more power efficiency, you can run more AI models. So if you run more AI models, you can actually show customers a lot more behavior that needs to be corrected in real time. This brings a lot more value long term to customers.”

Jai Ranganathan, senior vice president of product at KeepTruckin, said in an interview that the fleet management innovation is enabled by Ambarella’s scalable range of CVflow AI vision SoCs, which are all supported by a common software development kit (SDK).

“We do this for people moving goods, people doing construction work, people in oil and gas — all kinds of different applications,” Ranganathan said. “We are bringing them a new generation of camera, in partnership with Ambarella.”

Above: Jai Ranganathan of KeepTruckin.

Image Credit: Ambarella

The AI Dashcam is connected to the KeepTruckin Vehicle Gateway, which uploads the pre-analyzed data, video, and still images to KeepTruckin’s cloud-based fleet management software in real time. The CV22 SoC integrates Ambarella’s image signal processor, which provides 1440p resolution HDR videos across all lighting conditions, while utilizing its on-chip H.264/H.265 encoding to reduce transmission bandwidth and storage costs.

“We have a bunch of requirements that are fairly onerous and more than most AI services do,” Ranganathan said.

Updating tech

KeepTruckin can upload additional features to the CV22 over time, via over-the-air software updates, to deliver incremental value to clients that invest in the platform. Moreover, KeepTruckin’s model training becomes increasingly more precise due to its in-house safety team assessing quality in real time, adding more risk context and providing input that makes model training and development cycles shorter.

In a truck, the conditions are tough for electronics, since the dashboards get hot and power efficiency is important.

“The more inferences we can do per watt, the much better it is for our deep learning models,” Ranganathan said. “That’s a big element of what we care about. There’s obviously a cost issue too. We’re in a pretty cutthroat industry. Our customers care about having really good value for the money. Doing all this in real time at the edge is why we favored Ambarella.”

KeepTruckin has more than 2,500 employees. It has raised $450 million from investors including Google Ventures (GV), and it supports around 400,000 trucks in its network.

Above: KeepTruckin’s camera can see the road and the driver too.

Image Credit: Ambarella

Needless to say, trucks carry a lot of force, and accidents are terrible for anyone involved. Anything the company can do to reduce accident rates and improve safety is valuable, Ranganathan said. In the long term, this could reduce insurance costs and help the overall economy.

It’s about reducing accidents on the road.

“If you’re using your cell phone, if your seatbelt is off, these are risky behaviors that need to be corrected because the continuation of all these things will lead to accidents,” Gupta said. “Alerting the driver directly at the edge, whether it’s through the mobile app experience or coaching the driver after the fact, this is really where the entire platform comes together. You want to be able to impact the driver who’s the one who’s actually making all these decisions in real time.”

Protecting drivers

The cameras have to be as reliable as any security camera. The system has to have accurate AI, and it also has to capture images with high resolution. Coming out with 1440p resolution as well as night mode IR tech puts the camera at the leading edge. The tech can help discern the highest-risk drivers from the lower-risk drivers.

Above: KeepTruckin uses Ambarella’s AI chips to detect driver alerts.

Image Credit: Ambarella

“We found that our score is five times more predictive than the leading safety score you’ll see from the industry,” Gupta said.

It can reward positive behaviors and also figure out how to retain drivers better, as driver turnover is a difficult problem. If KeepTruckin wants to upgrade to better performance, it can upgrade its software or upgrade to a different CVflow processor, said Budhia.

“The camera is really small, and the power consumption needs to be extremely low. There is no fan in this design. So that also helps,” Budhia said. “The KeepTruckin team can easily import their models trained on different networks to our device.”

Asked how KeepTruckin protects drivers’ privacy, Ranganathan said, “We take data and driver privacy very seriously. Our AI Dashcam provides both front and dual camera options, as well as privacy covers. We encourage drivers to check with their fleet managers for more detailed information on how their videos may be used or shared by their fleet.”


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Xbox Live Games with Gold for April put us in the boots of Vikings and truck drivers

April is nearly upon us, which means today Microsoft revealed a new batch of Xbox Live Games with Gold titles. While April doesn’t seem like it’s going to be some kind of bang-up month for the service, there will still be some interesting games up for grabs. At the very least, we can expect a pretty wide collection of genres on offer in April.

The first game on offer is Vikings: Wolves of Midgard, an Xbox One action RPG from 2017 that could be worth a download for fans of games like Diablo or Path of Exile. Players will going toe-to-toe with the “beasts of Ragnarok,” in this game, so this is definitely one for fans of Norse mythology. Players also have their choice of weapon style – as they should in any good action RPG – and will use those weapons to cut through hordes of enemies.

The second Xbox One game up for grabs next month will be Truck Racing Championship. As the name suggests, you’ll be racing semi trucks across 14 different circuits, with 45 trucks to pick from. You can’t really get a pair of games that are as far apart in genre as Vikings: Wolves of Midgard and Truck Racing Championship are, so at least Microsoft is keeping things interesting in April.

Then we have the two retro offerings from the days of the Xbox 360: Dark Void and Hard Corps: Uprising. Dark Void got a fair bit of attention for itself around the time it was new thanks to its flying mechanics, while Hard Corps: Uprising took the run-and-gun gameplay of Contra and upgraded it for the then-modern era.

As a reminder, all four of these games are playable on Xbox Series X|S through backward compatibility, so those of you who have already managed to snag one of Microsoft’s next-gen consoles can partake in the Games with Gold action as well. Vikings: Wolves of Midgard will be available April 1st – 30th, Truck Racing Championship will be available April 16th – May 30th, Dark Void will be available April 1st – 15th, and finally, Hard Corps: Uprising will be available April 16th – 30th.

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Tech News

Every Upcoming Electric Pickup Truck

It’s almost 2021, and there is still not a single battery-powered truck you can buy new in America. And yet, the list of carmakers trying to snag a slice of this lucrative segment grows on a regular basis, and electric pickups are will begin flooding the market during the first half of the 2020s. There’s a lot at stake: Trucks are profitable and hugely popular in America. It’s not a coincidence that the Ford F-Series has been the bestselling vehicle for the past 38 years.

While we wait, we’re looking at the battery-powered pickups that have been announced and are currently being developed. Keep in mind that the details in this story could change. We’re discussing trucks that don’t exist yet, sometimes made by companies that have never built a car. Delays, cancellations, and other surprises aren’t inconceivable. Basic market research is extremely important before you plop down a four-digit deposit.

Atlis XT

Base range: 300 miles
Base price: $45,000
Available in: 2021

Arizona-based newcomer Atlis introduced the four-door XT online in 2019. It hopes to deliver a truck that drives, tows, and hauls at least as well as a V8-powered model without burning a drop of gasoline. Its drivetrain consists of four in-wheel electric motors powered by a lithium-ion battery pack that delivers up to 300 miles of range in its most basic configuration. There’s a 500-mile version on the roster, too. Atlis plans to launch XT production in 2021, though there’s no word yet on where it will be manufactured.

Bollinger B2

Base price: $125,000
Base range: 200 miles
Available in: 2021

Forget surfboards and Instagram-friendly beaches — Bollinger’s B2 is being designed to excel when the going gets tough. It will slot into the EPA’s Class 3 category, meaning it will land in the same segment as heavy-duty variants of the Chevrolet Silverado and the Ford F-Series, among other rigs. It won’t have power windows, interior carpeting, airbags, or a giant touchscreen. When it comes to electric pickups, the B2 is shaping up to be as tough as it gets.

Its 614-horsepower powertrain is relatively compact, and the cabin only seats four, so Bollinger carved out a lumber-friendly storage compartment that runs from end to end. The B2 also boasts 15 inches of ground clearance, a 5,000-pound payload, and a relatively low 7,500-pound towing capacity. This all comes at a steep price: $125,000. Production will tentatively start in 2020, and the first deliveries are penciled in for early 2021.

Ford F-150 Electric

Base price: TBD
Base range: TBD
Available in: 2021

America’s best-selling vehicle for decades is going electric. Ford confirmed it will offer a battery-powered version of the next-gen F-150 to fend off an offensive led by Tesla and Rivian. Little is known about the model, though we know it will be the quickest and most powerful version of the truck, and deliveries are tentatively scheduled to start in 2022. If you can’t wait that long for an electrified truck, you’ll have to settle for the PowerBoost hybrid model introduced in June 2020. Its gasoline-electric drivetrain is built around a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine.

GMC Hummer

Base price: $112,595 (at launch)
Base range: 350 miles
Available in: Late 2021

After several delays, GMC finally introduced the first Hummer-badged off-roader in nearly a decade. It picks up where its predecessors left off from a design standpoint, but it’s entirely electric; it doesn’t burn a drop of gasoline. Its specifications are nonetheless extremely impressive. GMC quotes up to 350 miles of range, 1,000 horsepower, and a three-second sprint to 60 mph that’s on par with many high-performance models.

General Motors president Mark Reuss revealed that one-, two-, and three-motor variants will be available when the truck hits showrooms. It’s expected to begin rolling into dealerships in the fall of 2021 as a 2022 model.

Lordstown Endurance

Base price:$52,500
Base range:
250 miles
Available in: 2021

With 600 hp from four individual motors and a 7,500-pound towing capacity, the Lordstown Endurance sounds like an all-around practical truck that never needs to visit a gas station. It delivers about 250 miles of range in its most basic configuration, and its on-board power outlet promises to let users run tools and charge their devices off the grid by drawing power from its battery pack. We haven’t seen the truck in the metal yet, but we know it will be built in a former General Motors factory located in Lordstown, Ohio, hence its name.

Lordstown planned to introduce the production version of the Endurance at the 2020 edition of the Detroit auto show, but the event has been canceled. It’s still scheduled to make its debut in the summer of 2020, but its reveal will likely take place online. Deliveries will begin in early 2021.

Rivian R1T

Rivian R1T on a beach
Base price: $69,000
Base range:
230 miles
Available in: 2021

Rivian became the industry’s sweetheart when it introduced the R1T at the 2018 edition of the Los Angeles auto show. This electric off-roader is a lifestyle-oriented model that’s more comfortable hauling kayaks than hay bales, and it’s decked out with clever features like a pass-through under the cargo box and a feature called tank turn. Rivian’s project was so convincing that Amazon and Ford funneled a substantial amount of money into it.

The specifications sheet lists three available lithium-ion battery packs ranging from 105 to 180 kilowatt-hours, between 230 and 400 miles of range, and a towing capacity of about 11,000 pounds. Although the goal was to begin production by the end of 2020 in a former Mitsubishi factory located in Normal, Illinois, Rivian had to delay deliveries until 2021.

Tesla Cybertruck

Tesla Cybertruck

Base price: $39,000
Base range: 250 miles
Available in: 2021

Imagine what you’d get if you crossed a sports car with a pickup truck. You may have guessed it already, but we’re talking about the Tesla Cybertruck. This radical-looking vehicle is one of the most controversial on this list, but there’s a lot more to it than just an angular roofline and potential bulletproofing.

For one, this pickup truck will comfortably seat six, will have a 17-inch touchpad, and will deliver 250-500 miles of range based on how it’s configured. The exoskeleton of the truck will protect passengers and drivers with stainless steel.

The Tesla Cybertruck will also be able to tow a maximum of 14,000 pounds – enough to compete with the ever so popular Ford F-150. It’s phenomenal even to think that Tesla could compete with Ford when it comes to towing power. The company has told California regulators that this model will be close to the weight of a medium-duty Ford F-250.

As Tesla plans to open a variety of new, state-of-the-art, modernized manufacturing factories, we can expect to start seeing more and more of these Cybertrucks. Due to its high consumer demands, Tesla is working hard to increase its production practices. The company is no longer up and coming; it’s proven to be successful and one of the top-running automakers in the world today in 2021. Tesla is a legitimate manufacturer who we believe will soon set the standard for EVs. Keep your eyes peeled for the Cybertruck unveiling sometime during 2021. In 2022, we expect to see some significant changes. 

We foresee that the 2022 model will be a more streamlined and polished version of the Cybertruck. However, we should also be prepared for setbacks and delays due to Tesla’s history. Tesla recently pushed back the Roadster’s launch, so it’s best to assume the same could happen to the Cybertruck release. It’s hard to find an electric pickup truck out on the road today. When you think about how many gas-fueled pickups there are, it’s exciting to know that an EV version is coming soon. We believe electric pickup trucks will be an innovation revered and used by drivers and conservationists alike.

Editors’ Choice

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Plus raises $200 million to develop its autonomous truck platform

Plus, a startup developing autonomous truck technology, today announced it has completed a $200 million series B round led by new investors Guotai Junan, Hedosophia, and Wanxiang. Plus plans to use the funds to accelerate the commercialization and deployment of its automated trucking system. As the company begins mass production in 2021, Plus says it will develop a sales, engineering, and support network to help fleets integrate its platform into their daily operations. The company will also scale deployments in the U.S. and China and expand to Europe and other parts of Asia.

Some experts predict the pandemic will hasten adoption of autonomous vehicles for delivery. Self-driving cars, vans, and trucks promise to minimize the risk of spreading disease by limiting driver contact. This is particularly true with regard to short-haul freight, which is experiencing a spike in volume during the COVID-19 outbreak. The producer price index for local truckload carriage jumped 20.4% from July to August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most likely propelled by demand for short-haul distribution from warehouses and distribution centers to ecommerce fulfillment centers and stores.

Cupertino, California-based Plus, which was cofounded in 2016 by Stanford Ph.D. students Hao Zheng, David Liu, Shawn Kerrigan, and Tim Daly, aims to develop semiautonomous trucks in partnership with automakers, chipmakers, and shipping companies. Its technology relies on a combination of radars, lidar sensors, and cameras to “see” 360 degrees around, with a fusion-based perception system that allows Plus-equipped driverless trucks to track vehicles hundreds of meters away. Plus says it trains and deploys a number of AI models to perform tasks like detecting and analyzing ground objects and road structures, and to predict the behavior of its trucks and surrounding vehicles. Complementary models and mechanisms like odometry provide functional redundancy and ostensibly ensure smooth transitions between operating modes.

“[Our] models were trained using a diverse dataset consisting of data collected from 14 states in the U.S. and seven provinces in China under varying environmental conditions, including rain, snow, dust storms, and fog. Data augmentation was done using a combination of heuristics, simulation, and generative adversarial networks (GANs) to ensure that the models generalize to novel situations to mitigate potential bias,” Liu told VentureBeat via email. “For example, we can create realistic images of new kinds of road geometries and textures using GANs, even when that is not part of the data collected. Event miners are used to automatically identify interesting data segments containing new information by temporal correlation and cross-correlation with other sensors. An example of interesting data is an object that should have been detected but was not. When new model versions are trained, we make sure that this new class of information gets incorporated appropriately and the model’s capacity continues to develop.”

Back in March 2017, Plus, which has around 200 employees in its U.S. and China offices, became one of the first driverless trucking companies to land a California Autonomous Vehicle Testing License, which allows manufacturers to test autonomous vehicles with a human in the driver seat. The company claims to have partnered with some of the world’s largest logistics providers, some of whom have preordered its driving platform ahead of mass production in 2021 with heavy truck manufacturer FAW. (Plus says it has over 10,000 units of preorders so far.)

In December 2019, Plus completed a cross-country commercial freight run in the U.S. with Land O’Lakes. It has also put its automated driving system through independent testing via the Transportation Research Center, a vehicle test facility and proving grounds.

“Trucking accidents and a growing truck driver shortage affect our economy and daily lives. All of us at Plus are inspired every day to develop automated trucks that are going to make our world safer and greener and help fleets drive more fuel efficiently and reduce operating costs,” Liu said in a statement, adding that Plus expects to have its automated driving system deployed on “tens of thousands” of trucks across the U.S., China, and Europe in the next few years. “The additional funding and continued support of our investors will help us further scale our commercialization efforts, enabling us to serve fleets in more countries.”

The value of goods transported as freight cargo in the U.S. was estimated to be about $50 billion each day in 2013. And the driverless truck market — which is anticipated to reach 6,700 units globally after totaling $54.23 billion in 2019 — stands to save the logistics and shipping industry $70 billion annually while boosting productivity by 30%. Besides promised cost savings, the growth of trucking automation has been driven by a shortage of drivers. In 2018, the American Trucking Associations estimated that 50,000 more truckers were needed to close the gap in the U.S., despite the sidelining of proposed U.S. Transportation Department screenings for sleep apnea.

Plus has competition in Daimler, which in 2018 obtained a permit from the Chinese government that allows it to test self-driving cars powered by Baidu’s Apollo platform on public roads in Beijing. And startup Optimus Ride built out a small driverless shuttle fleet in Brooklyn. Waymo, which has racked up more than 20 million real-world miles in over 25 cities across the U.S. and billions of simulated miles, in November 2018 became the first company to obtain a driverless car testing permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Other competitors include Tesla, Aptiv, May Mobility, Cruise, Aurora, Argo AI,, (which this week raised $100 million), and Nuro.

Sequoia, Lightspeed, GSR Ventures, CGC, Mayfield, Chinese carmaker SAIC, and trucking platform Full Truck Alliance — a Plus customer — also participated in Plus’ latest funding round. It brings the company’s total raised to close to $400 million.


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