A career in calculating and recalculating

October 2018

John Bendel

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As a young Princeton graduate in the mid-1970s, Alain Kornhauser worked with officials from government and private railroads in emergency meetings to keep Northeast rail freight moving as major railroads failed. He was the computer expert in the group.

He developed mileage software for rail operations and realized it could be applied to trucking. In 1979, he started Princeton, N.J.-based ALK Technologies to do just that. His first product, called PC Miler, became a truckload standard for charging shippers and paying drivers.

ALK launched CoPilot turn-by-turn navigation and was the first company to offer truck-specific directions in CoPilot Truck. ALK was also one of the first to build in live rerouting that automatically reconfigures a route when you make a wrong turn or go off course – the voice that announces “recalculating.”

Which brings me to the first time I met Kornhauser. It was in 2006 or so, and he was personally demonstrating CoPilot to the trucking press with rides in his European sports car. When it was my turn, he plugged in the address of someplace or other, and then we zoomed off into the gentle hills of Princeton Township. He talked on and on about the wonders of GPS navigation while he happily turned from one curving road to another paying no attention whatever to the CoPilot device mounted on his dashboard.

With the top down on his two-seater, I couldn’t hear a thing he said. What I could hear was the CoPilot voice as it announced “recalculating” over and over and over.

Kornhauser retired from ALK in 2013 but remains a very active professor at Princeton University, which he has never left. LL

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John Bendel

John Bendel is Land Line’s contributing editor-at-large. A former trucker, former editor at National Lampoon and two trucking magazines, John is an author, photographer, and freelancer. His work has appeared in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and many U.S. newspapers.