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SHIFT – A roadmap to economically distributed automation

Developed at Strelka during the ‘The New Normal Program’ in 2017, ‘SHIFT‘ (Arthur Röing Baer, Christian Lavista, Dmitry Alferov, Liza Dorrer) is a project that engages with stages of automation of the trucking industry in Russia, working with the socio-political, physical, and spatial particulars of logistics in the country’s vast territory. The project re-thinks the role of the truckers union, and engages with it structurally to facilitate its transformation along with the introduction of network effects and consolidation of data collection.

Our society is as much about structures as it is about flows. If we replicate our habitat in our socio political and economical image, structures are as much a part of that as flows. That is why the way in which they are assembled is of extreme importance. If we want a distributed and egalitarian society, the management of our flows should operate in the same way. In these times of uncertainties SHIFT seeks to use innovation and technological development as way to change and achieve economically distributed automation. Inherent in the technology of Ai are characteristics of distribution, that allow them to be co-opted in the good of a majority, and not in the hands of a few. The urgency to change narratives of Ai is key, it will only create unwanted consequences, if that is what we seek.


SHIFT is envisioned as a strategic roadmap to achieve economically distributed automation. The first proposition is utilising the Truckers Union as a platform by developing their first mobile application that will fulfill the basic needs of its members. The first version of the app focuses on community building, fee collection, governance and security. Functions include channel and peer to peer voice communication, payment system, alarm button, news and voting systems. This app would be tailored made for the specificity of different contexts. Mainly it will integrate voting functions, cartography with services specifically for truck drivers, a financial transaction mechanism, a communication device and most importantly a means to collect data of the logistical transactions done by drivers (time, cargo, route, etc). As more and more services are generated the application and the organization become more robust in terms of data collection to further expand into the next step. By having bundled massive amounts of data of logistical flows, the union could begin to think about establishing its own freight company. Providing services of transport directly between client and driver, without brokers, having a direct impact on driver earnings. This would allow drivers to have prices set up front with their platform, something that is pressing for the majority of truck drivers. By doing these processes digitally, through the union platform, it would allow them to lock in deals and not have usual problems of payment delay and other payment concerns.

The structure of this new entity would operate in more decentralized way in comparison to other logistical companies. It would cover the vast territorial landscape with distributed nodes that could easily book jobs without a central geographical location. Creating a superior optimized system that would allow for efficient movement of commodities and goods through a decentralized network. By having assembling independent truck drivers with the union, it could already reach a critical mass from the beginning of their network, that could late on be used to collect data, to have the opportunity to leverage their organization in the face of oncoming uncertainties.

As the final step of the plan implementation, SHIFT proposes the implementation of automation using the diverse sensorial apparatus, cameras and sonar devices to allow the vehicle to locate itself in relation to its physical environment. Software is currently being developed to command the vehicle in diverse situations in relation to what the different sensors are capturing. In addition, road infrastructure would need to be constantly maintained, especially because it extends throughout the whole territory. Using trucks as a distributed sensory system united through a new network – the union – is able to assemble a massive number of drivers dispersed across Russia to constantly scan and inform on the condition of road infrastructure and surroundings.

The project also tackles a number of other topics related to implementation of the roadmap including flow optimization through decentralization, bottom up / top down correlation, retrofitting, regulatory hurdles and infrastructure and distributed sensory apparatus. Learn more about the SHIFT project at the links below.

Video was shot with sony a7, goPro 4 & 5, 3 Phantome drones; software for video: Adobe Primiere Pro, After effects, SLAM library, Processing and Rhino+Grasshopper.

Project PageThe New Normal | Strelka

Creadits: Dmitry Alferov (Programmer from Moscow, Russia), Elizaveta Dorrer (Architect from Saint Petersburg, Russia), Christian Lavista (Architect from Buenos Aires, Argentina) and Arthur Röing Baer (Designer from Sweden/Germany).

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