The Future is Now – Self-Driving Trucks Will Soon Hit the Road
These days, it seems like automation is starting to hit almost every major industry, even for vehicles. However, what would the future look like if self-driving trucks were on the market?
We’ll find out soon enough.
Multiple companies are now testing self-driving trucks, and though many technical problems are still unresolved, they may be rolling out within the foreseeable future. Many companies like Otto, who outfit trucks with the equipment needed to drive themselves, are at the forefront and eager to get these vehicles on the road.
To help spread awareness and increase knowledge for this transportation issue, you can find our guide for automatic trucking down below.
First, let’s look at the bright side: there are plenty of benefits that can be achieved with this model of transportation.
Cut Down on Costs
The number one positive for self-driving trucks is that it will certainly cut down on economic costs. While drivers are restricted to 11 hours of work per day, 60 hours per week, autonomous vehicles can go almost 24 hours a day, every day. This could greatly reduce freight costs.
Not to mention, the fact that fuel costs could be cut in half and create huge savings. The self-driving vehicles will be programmed to keep the trucks at optimal speeds and acceleration, which try as they might, truck drivers can’t achieve all the time.
However, the greatest goal is that it could cut down on accidents. Truck and bush crashes kill almost 4,000 people in the United States, while injuring around 100,000 more. Driver fatigue is a huge factor in those fatal truck accidents, while driver error may often play a role.
It’s hard to determine right now, but self-driving car tests do suggest that technology will cut down on these kinds of mistakes, and increase safety on the roads overall.
Help with Recruiting and Training
Autonomous vehicles also don’t mean that truck drivers have to lose their jobs. In fact, by requiring a driver to remain on board self-driving trucks, the driving jobs will be safer than ever before.
Being aboard these kinds of vehicles allow for drivers to nap and relax, or catch up on heavy paperwork or other work that needs to get done. This cuts down on the negatives associated with truck driving, and hopefully entices new drivers to get into the business as well, which could greatly help the industry.
With so many positives, however, what could potentially go wrong? Well, there are still plenty of questions that have yet to be answered, as these vehicles won’t be rolling into production for another 5 to 10 years. Concerns still remain over:
The Future for Truck Drivers
If self-driving trucks do make their way onto the roads, they will certainly be more controversial than self-driving cars. We’re already in the midst of problems associated with jobs being given away to automation.
Self-driving trucks will affect about 3.5 million truckers in the United States. While this method might not upend their jobs, it will certainly alter the entire nature of the truck driving job, which may not be welcomed.
Plus, it’s hard to determine the exact fate of what will happen to these blue-collar workers. There’s currently no regulation to require companies to pay drivers for the time the spend in trucks, not driving. Meaning, they could make way less for something they didn’t necessarily ask for.
Safety and Technological Obstacles
Last but not least, these automatic vehicles don’t necessarily mean they’re any safer, at least for right now.
Unlike self-driving cars, self-driving trucks have a longer way to go in terms of safety. They will need to demonstrate that the sensors and code put into them can match the situational awareness of professional truckers. Those employees have years and years of experience and skills for any kind of situation, especially during confusing hazards, poor road conditions, and unpredictable car drivers.
It’s truly not as easy as you would think--trucks can’t swerve to avoid problems like cars can. In fact, a hard turn could send a truck fishtailing and even jackknifing, which could be deadly for anyone on the road.
If a truck is going 55 miles per hour, it will take the length of a football field in order for that truck to come to an exact stop. Not to mention that there are only 6 inches of lane on both sides of a truck, so they definitely can’t avoid anything in their path.
While automation companies can put sensors on top of the cab, even those could provide inaccurate data due to bright sunlight, improper differentiation, and unexpected weather. They also can’t interpret facial expressions and gestures of car drivers to predict their driving behavior.
When it comes down to it, these self-driving trucks are nowhere near being able to drive in cities or on highways, where everything is left up to chance. Their knowledge is nowhere near the human skill that is acquired over years of practice.
Social acceptance is still left up to question, so until these challenges are finally answered, this kind of technology is only meant to help truck drivers, not hinder them.
Timing is crucial here, because if automatic trucks are put onto the road and an accident occurs, it will be very difficult to gain back the public trust, and the funding necessary to continue this method overall.
To help you stay on top of the current transportation and trucking news that may affect you, continue following our UTECH Blog here.