Self-driving trucks have been a popular topic of discussion recently. Automobile manufacturers like Tesla, Waymo and Otto have been working on self-driving trucks for years. Mercedes-Benz launched the first semi-autonomous truck in 2015. Autonomous vehicles are expected to become the norm soon, but many steps need to be taken before that can happen.
The self-driving trucks on the roads could result in an estimated $300 billion saving within the transport industry. This technology is created for better road safety, stability control, collision avoidance and lane-departure warnings.
It is expected that 10 million self-driving cars will be on the road by 2020 and there will be beyond 250 million ‘smart’ cars. Presently, several automotive companies have implemented self-driving features on their trucks and cars. These vehicles are designed to absorb data from their surroundings and learn and respond to what the data is telling them to do. This has become possible by using machine learning and a system of sensors, software and cameras.
Manufacturers are also working on semi-autonomous technology in which the truck drivers are still required. For instance, Tesla is working on having a driver at the wheel even though the computer brakes, accelerates and steers. Drivers are still needed at the time of pickup and delivery of the consignment.
Benefits Of Self-Driving Trucks As The Future Of Transportation
In spite of the significance of autonomous technology, the trucking industry faces multiple challenges every day. The use of robotic trucks helps to solve many problems faced by the industry currently whereas improving sectors that heavily depend on transportation. Self-driving trucks offer many benefits which are described below. Have a look-
- Control Traffic Jams – One of the key benefits of autonomous trucks is that they can greatly reduce traffic jams and congestion on the highways throughout the country. The autonomous trucks will be programmed to take the most ideal route and will also take immediate action, unlike humans, that will mostly reduce traffic jams.
- Reduced Road Accidents – Though self-driving trucks are not yet completely accident-proof and safe, especially in specific weather and road conditions. Various studies that have been performed claim that autonomous vehicles will lead to a major decrease in road accidents compared to human-driven trucks. Software installed in the autonomous trucks can analyze and evaluate traffic data, and pick better routes.
- Reducing Human Error – Human error is considered as the most common reasons for road accidents. The software does not violate traffic regulations like drunk driving, texting while driving, etc. The sensor installed in these vehicles helps to maintain a particular distance from the vehicle in front which helps to avoid collisions and result in fewer accidents and better road safety.
- Cost Savings – Another benefit of autonomous trucks is the cost savings to the transporters who use them. Undeniably, there will be a huge upfront investment in buying an autonomous vehicle but in the long run, it will save you money using a combination of improved efficiency and decrease the requirement of drivers that have to be paid.
Autonomous Vehicles Can Reduce Traffic
A recent study has revealed that autonomous vehicles working cooperatively can decrease traffic congestion by up to 35 %.
In the laboratory of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Computer Science and Technology, Dr. Amanda Prorok performed an autonomous car cooperative driving experiment and said, “Our design allows for a huge range of practical, low-priced experiments to be performed out on self-driving cars. For autonomous vehicles to be safely used on the roads, we need to understand how they will communicate with each other to enhance the safety and traffic flow.”
As the cars have become technologically advanced, auto manufacturers expect to use extensive vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications to enable vehicles to interact with each other. This communication allows cars to send and receive information like road conditions, speed, traffic flow, and direction.
This technology also enables a car to sense if another vehicle is moving into the same lane. For the time being, sensors might only give a warning alarm sound that requires the driver’s attention, but in the future, it automatically controls the braking or steering when detecting a possible collision.
It is assumed by the U.S. Department of Transportation that thousands of crashes every year can be prevented with successful V2V communication. They predicted that this autonomous technology could reduce the chance of crashes by up to 80%. By minimizing the accident rate by such a huge percentage, drivers will be able to drive in more predictable traffic patterns, as far fewer accidents will block the roads and cause traffic jams.
Develop The Next Generation Of Skilled Drivers
A recent study disclosed that autonomous vehicles won’t start to seriously replace workers until the mid-2040s, and even then losses will be comparatively small.
Perhaps, one of the most widely discussed drawbacks of this new technology is the job cuts for drivers. The drivers are the essential share of the transport industry but it is also true that automated trucks will completely change the whole transport industry. But, will it eliminate all drivers, probably not, but it is likely to give rise to unemployment. The focus of the industry will be to hire drivers having advanced driving skills and technology-driven. In that way, drivers need to be comfortable with AI in their workplace.
Autonomous technologies and new transportation models will create demand for advanced skills. For example, early self-driving routes will be expected to restrict to Point-to-Point transportation by major highways, and this advanced Hub-and-Spoke distribution system will unavoidably change the demand for long-haul truck drivers to newly developed opportunities. You may see the increase in demand for drivers to focus on shorter, urban roads, or workers with a more advanced and technical skillset to tackle and monitor the Point-to-Point trucks from a central location, just as an air traffic controller or call center operative.
Transporters should be doing all that they can today to invite, hire, and retain people who wish to adapt and grab new opportunities to meet the future needs of the transport sector.
What’s Ahead of the Future of Transportation
Technology is transforming the transport industry with a speed and scale that are difficult to realize. The transport systems of tomorrow will be completely different from today. It will be more connected, technically-advanced, data-driven, on-demand and highly automated. Ideas to change the transportation sector are executing swiftly from planning, research and design, testbed to early agreement, and, finally, the mass acceptance. And as per the forecasts, the pace of innovation is only going to increase.
By 2040, self-driving cars are expected to embrace around 25% of the global market. Flying taxis are already tested in Dubai and expected to launch by 2020. Cargo drones will become even more economical than the motorcycle delivery by 2020. Maglev trains are already present in Japan, China South Korea, and being fabricated or planned in Europe, Australia, Asia and the USA. This all proves that the transportation industry is growing at a very fast pace and autonomous trucks will surely be going to add value to this sector.
This new age of autonomous technology will need major changes in regulation and, more importantly, will need that regulation to be more responsive to rapidly changing environments. Countries should train their people on the technologies of the future, in that respect, driving skills will be more critical than ever. This technology will completely change the mobility and will do so quickly than we even expect.
Rachelle, the author of this post is an experienced writer and analyst. He is working in the transport and logistics industry for many years and therefore familiar with the latest trends and technologies used in this sector. Writing is his passion and he writes informative blogs after complete research and analysis.