Self-driving trucks around the corner


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*image source: www.einride.tech

Is ‘This Future’ close?

Nowadays, more and more technologies and innovations are developed for making our lives easier. Innovation today stays at the core of every single industry and trucking is not an exception.

‘This Future’ may be near by as big market players invest heavily in research and development of ‘Autonomous driving assisted systems’.

What does it mean for transportation industry?  It may mean that future trucks will drive without drivers. This may be a historical achievement for mankind and our technological evolution. Nevertheless it may have a giant impact on trucking industry which currently has a shortage of 50,000 truck drivers.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this break through? How will this affect the truckers job market? How soon could this happen?

First, let’s try to look at some goods and bads to get more context. Once we do that, we will try to answer some of these questions.

Advantages

Scientists are saying that autonomous driving is more efficient and less expensive, which may result in cheaper food on our tables.

Another advantage is that autonomous trucks may save millions of lives as they will be equipped with collision prevention technologies and systems which will help to exclude 99% of potential road accidents.

Driver shortage issue may gradually disappear, as previously stated, the trucking industry is facing a serious shortage of truck drivers and autonomous trucks may be a vital solution by filling up this market gap.

Environmentally friendly – due to optimized gear shifting, less braking and acceleration the future trucks will be more fuel efficient thus it will result in cheaper transportation costs.

Disadvantages

One of the disadvantages would be that millions of jobs and families may be under risk as truck driving is one of the most preferred occupations in over 30 U.S. states. However, the truck drivers are not too worried as for many drivers, this innovation sounds more like star wars.

Bad weather conditions – currently autonomous trucks are being tested in good weather and road conditions and no one has proven success of testing autonomous trucks behavior on ice roads and snow storms.

If you could think of more, please share your thoughts in the comments below.

When will the self-driven trucks hit the roads?

Experts are saying that automated trucks might be on the roads in a few years or it could possibly take decades as it is really tough and challenging to write adaptable software systems which will safely respond in all weather and road conditions as well as in all traffic circumstance.

Historically, humans never fully trust machines, thus it may take time for people to actually embrace this new technology.

High costs could be another valid reason for delay. The research and development of of self driving cars has already burnt billions of dollars, investors will want their money back, thus it may boos the initial prices until the competition will balance out the market. Adapting the infrastructure and laws will also require a big chunk of investments and time. This may significantly delay the self driving trucks integration in commercial BAU.

The NHTSA has issued a GUIDE for Automated Driving Systems – A Vision for Safety replaces the Federal Automated Vehicle Policy released in 2016. This updated policy framework offers a path forward for the safe deployment of automated vehicles. It includes a series of acceptance requirements aimed to supporting industry innovation and encouraging open communication with the public and with stakeholders.
Below is a proof of concept presented by a Swedish startup Einride

Will the truck drivers loose their jobs?

Ted Scott, from American Trucking Association is saying that ” You are not going to see a truck without a driver in it for a long time’. Which means that in the near future the autonomous trucks will be monitored by a truck driver that will have to stay in the cabin, mostly as a passenger, in case if the system will be down or if it will be a situation that will require the driver to take control of the vehicle. Actually autonomous trucks are developed to help drivers, to make their life easier and less stressful.

This conclusion may serve as a strong message of encouragement for the trucking companies out there. The encouragement to continue their efforts and investments in creating a healthy work environment, drivers recognition programs and more, to attract more talents to this industry as drivers will continue to play a key role in its success for many years to come.

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