Autonomous Trucks Are Coming, But What Does This Mean for Trucking?

Autonomous Trucks Are Coming, But What Does This Mean for Trucking?

Autonomous trucks could reduce accidents, improve safety, and save money for transportation and logistics companies. But there are also concerns that these new technologies will put drivers out of jobs.

In fact according to a new study out of the University of Michigan, could replace about 90 percent of human driving in U.S. long-haul trucking, the equivalent of roughly 500,000 jobs.

“When we talked to truck drivers, literally every one said, ‘Yeah, this part of the job can be automated,’” explained Aniruddh Mohan, a Ph.D. candidate in engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University and a co-author of the study. “We thought they would be a bit more dubious.”

Autonomous driving engineers are squarely focused on long-haul freight, the interstate runs with almost no complexity save for a slow curve or an E-ZPass lane. As such, those routes are some of the simpler challenges on the self-driving spectrum.

But many of the companies and startups developing the technology for self-driving trucks are working keeping the driver in the cabin.  There are too many thinks that could be wrong to have no human presence in the cabin of a truck moving on the highways.  It doesn’t meant that the job of a truck driver isn’t going to change, it will be getting more similar to an airplane pilot, who is responsible takeoff and landing the plane assisted by instrument but it is performed manually.  The truck driver will be responsible to move the truck on urban areas but in the highways it will be 100% automated.  It is also possible to have 100% autonomous trucks in the highway but it will need to move between specialized hubs to transfer the cargo to a manual truck to move it to final destination.

Autonomous Trucks to hit U.S. highways this year

Many technology companies are in the race to take a part of the pie in the autonomous trucking and the main actors in the truck industry are playing too.  With Daimler, Volvo, Ford, Google, Tesla developing their own technology and many disruptors startups like Einride, Locomation, Plus.ai and a list close to 40 others, it is a matter of time to be very common to have this kind of vehicles on the US roads.

This month Einride received the allowances from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), marking the first time a purpose-built autonomous, electric truck without a driver on board has been approved to operate on public roads in the U.S. and there are planning to have the first pilot in the Q4 this year.

Another companies are planning their commercial production for next year and 2014.  So it is important to be prepared to near future because many thinks are going to change in the trucking industry.