Company turns trucking into a real-life video game

A company developing remote-control trucks believes that gamers could be the trucking industry’s answer to perceived “driver shortage.”

According to Bloomberg, Phantom Auto, an autonomous vehicle company located in Mountain View, California, has developed a series of remote control yard trucks that can be controlled from as far as seven states away, and they claim that it’s not much different from playing video games.

The yard trucks are operated from offices in California by someone sitting at a bank of computer screens, which Phantom Auto says offers them a more comprehensive view, allowing the vehicle to be controlled more accurately than if it were manned by a traditional driver, and that’s where gamers come in.

Using the multiple screens and remote controls, the yard truck can be maneuvered through a truck lot, moving trailers and generally operating as a typical truck would. 25-year-old programmer, Ben Shukman, is the product lead for the remote technology and says that his years of binging video games have helped him be a better remote driver.

“We were able to do some maneuvers that were so difficult that there were truck drivers there that said that they could not do that,” he said of his ability to back the truck into loading docks and pull into parking spaces. Shukman says he has only ever been to one truck yard once, where he practiced maneuvering a real semi truck before heading back to the office to control it remotely, but that he has been playing video games almost his entire life.

“There’s a deficit of talent available in our industry,” said Scott Young, Vice President of customer support for Volvo, another company working on developing the remote control technology.  “This is how we bring the work to the talent pool.”

“The big thing about that shift between driving locally and driving remotely — although it’s different, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more difficult,” he said.

The biggest thing that we stress,” said Elliot Katz, co-founder of Phantom Auto, “is even though you’re sitting in a remote location and you’re behind the screen, this is real life.”