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.