The trucking industry is heading for an autonomous future. Self-driving trucks have been in the works for several years – Daimler introduced in 2014 the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 – but developments within the last year show the transformation is moving full steam ahead.
The tests being done currently are limited to semi-autonomous systems that handle long stretches of highway driving. In-cab or remote human drivers are still needed to drive the trucks from the highway exits to the loading docks.
Most in the field don’t believe fully autonomous trucks that make dock-to-dock runs will be available for the next decade-plus. Trucking is a $700 billion industry in the US, touching every corner of the economy. More than 3.5 million Americans are truck drivers. And there are two narratives at play:
- Tech companies developing autonomous driving systems clearly want a piece of the trucking industry’s pie, saying they’ll reduce costs and labor shortages plaguing the industry.
- Truckers and labor unions are fighting back against self-driving trucks as they’re concerned about jobs being eliminated.
How these narratives play out will be determined over time, of course. But there’s no denying automation will have a profound impact on the trucking industry. We have compiled a list of recent developments and leading players in the autonomous trucking space. Investments are flowing, and Uber and Waymo are gearing up for a new battle in autonomous driving.
William K. says
What would be accepted today by both drivers and trucking companies is driver assistance systems. Hardware to help with safe following, and especially, systems to help keep the speed safe as road conditions change, while alerting the drivers to conditions ahead. Reducing fatigue while improving driver awareness would be accepted by both sides of the issue. Who could argue with improving both safety and profits?
William K. says
Here is another question, which is, how many different responses does the truck control computer have for any given situation, either actual or possible? The lack of the correct response is why the UBER car killed that woman in Florida. The car had only two choices and both were wrong! When the computer vision system noticed the woman next to the road it should have moved away, either into the next lane, or at least to the far edge of it’s own lane. That is what a smart human driver would do. . But it is certain that the computer only saw a clear lane and thus it was not in a position to avoid hitting the poor woman. If the car had been on the left edge of it’s lane it would have either missed her or just grazed her, but instead it saw no potential problem and so went on with it’s program of staying in the lane center. This is the intrinsic flaw in computer driven cars and there is no way to fix it. The best approach would be to stop wasting money before hundreds of folks die!