Tag Archives: driverless truck

Driverless Trucks: A Labor Force Threat or an Invaluable Industry Opportunity?

Trucking has provided drivers and families with a decent living for decades. Although the demand for truckers has been persistent, most don’t expect it to last forever, especially since major truck manufacturers and startups have been busy testing automated and driverless trucks.

Automated and “self-driving” vehicles, such as Uber’s, have recently gained huge media attention. But, these vehicles have been driven by consumers’ personal demand for a ride. The economy thrives because of the goods truckers carry to markets, retail stores, and even directly to customer. So, when driverless vehicles really hit the road, they’ll be driven by commerce, meaning that big rigs will lead the pack.

Industry professionals are widely in agreement about the appeal of a machine that runs 24 breakless, restless hours a day. The change means less labor, which equals lower wage costs.

The technology is already out there, constantly being improved and tested, from driverless big rigs to platooned, single-driver operated trucks. If it becomes successful – an outcome that seems more than likely – this shift will cause a tremendous adaptation for 2.5 million truck and delivery drivers across the nation. Their lives will severely change, but Frank Mora, a 28-year-old driver whose family has been in the business for 30 years, says “There is nothing we can do to stop it or change it, but with change there is always opportunity.”

Many believe that the era of driverless trucks will increase safety in the business while simultaneously cutting operator costs and solving truck driver shortage issues. Other commercial benefits of the huge trucks could slow their development.

Leading the pack are “platoons” – vehicles that allow two or more cargo trucks to ride in tandem as they communicate with one another. Considered one of the most basic levels of automation, these vehicles include some features that owners of luxury vehicles are already using, like automated breaking. Their appeal comes from the reduced amount of regulatory hurdles developers will need to navigate through to reach the market, allowing them to hit the roads quicker than any other type of automated vehicle.

Driverless Trucks.jpg
The hurry to bring platoons to market can be described in one word: savings.

Because they drive tightly together, these new vehicles can save an estimated 20% in fuel costs. According to the American Transportation Research Institute, this fact is extremely appealing to trucking companies, especially when one of their biggest expenses is fuel.

Testing of platoons has already begun in Southern California with the federally-backed test of a three-truck Volvo platoon. This is the first test of a platoon in SoCal, and it will focus on gauging the safety of the truck with other vehicles dodging it on the roads.

Although advanced, the trucks won’t be testing for speed. Experts are analyzing the ability of the trucks to communicate each other while in motion through actions such as synchronized breaking. None of the trucks will ever travel more the 55 miles per hour.

Despite developer and industry professionals’ excitement, consumers and regulators harbor some anxiety about the new technology.

A Consumer Technology Association Poll found 70% of a 2,001 sample said that they were ready to test out an autonomous vehicle, but only 16% of the sample were willing to let machines take over completely.

News headlines and state legislation seem to be negatively affecting the willingness of consumers to share the roads with automated vehicles. Last summer, a man died while driving a Tesla Model S in autopilot mode, even though investigations reported no sign of vehicle defects. Additionally, California has been relatively slow to adopt autonomous vehicle regulations.

But, the long-term goal of developers is to make driverless trucks safer than those that are human-operated. A study by the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration showed that, in 2015, over 35,000 people died in car accidents, 94% of which were caused by human errors. “Smart vehicles” will have more electronic eyes than just two, hopefully allowing them to sense obstacles and potential danger better than humans can.

Although some researchers disagree about how much time it will take for automated big rigs to hit the roads and just how driverless they will be, Xiao Yun Lu, a research engineer at Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology at UC Berkeley, says “This is not the far future. This is the near future.”

Read next: A Step Closer to Automation: DOT Rule for V2V, Case Study: Manufacturer Reduces Freight Spend Through Automation.

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A Fully Automated Transportation Industry is Closer than You Think

infrastructure.jpgOver the last 30 years, the American population has increased 35%. It’s expected that 70% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. These facts amplify the pressure to correct infrastructure in order to support the movement of goods and people, and minimize related environmental impacts.

Although America’s multimodal freight system is proficient, moving approximately 63 tons of goods per American each year, the demand for more efficient freight moves is rising. The movement of goods is critical to economic strength.

Growth in freight demand will increase stress on freight bottlenecks. Estimates show that by 2040, nearly 30,000 miles of America’s busiest highways will be clogged daily. Truck congestion will waste $27 billion in time and fuel economy annually.

To improve surface transportation and other transportation-related challenges, the USDOT and Google’s Sidewalk Labs put together a program to develop the world’s first smart city.

What is a smart city? A smart city is a city that seeks to address urban issues through information and communication technology-based solutions. A smart city’s goal is to improve the quality of life by using real-time data to improve services and needs.

Smart city initiatives are largely dependent on collecting the right kind of data, analyzing patterns and optimizing systems functions.

Smart Cities Provide Opportunities for Supply Chain Management

With open data systems from several sources, supply chains can become more mobile.

Example 1. If a city’s traffic management system senses congestion, traffic signals can be changed and drivers’ can receive a cell phone alert. Additionally, smart traffic management will provide short-term estimates of traffic’s flow and speed, improving routing and planning.

Example 2. Self-driving vehicles, whether a commercial truck or personal car, will save fuel, improve safety and improve productivity. These vehicles equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-road (V2R) communication will considerably enhance transportation. This technology can exchange information about traffic and weather in relation to a vehicle’s specific location and speed, improving the general movement of vehicles without investing in physical infrastructure.

How Will Automated Vehicles Change Shipping?

52% of Americans believe autonomous driving is the transport method of the future.

But, there are already autonomous vehicles on our roads. As transportation transforms, it creates solutions for city challenges like congestion, pollution and traffic management. Automation and robotics will affect all modes of transportation while reducing infrastructure maintenance and transportation.jpgimproving travel safety.

 “Transportation is a really simple idea.
We want to move ourselves
or our things from one place to another
efficiently, reliably and safely.” –Anthony Foxx 

According to a DHL report, there is a strong case for the logistics industry to adopt self-driving vehicles much faster than other industries, because liability issues are less when a vehicle is transporting goods, not people.

Automation has the potential to reduce or eliminate human error. When a shipment is delayed, the bottom line suffers. With a self-driving vehicle, there is more safety and reliability.

In a world where roads are full of driverless trucks and cars moving in sync with each other, road accidents will disappear and commutes will be safe. Equipped with sensor technology, self-driving trucks can help drivers react faster to oncoming danger and calculate the safest maneuver. This could drastically reduce the number and severity of accidents.

A key challenge to the full introduction of driverless vehicles is public acceptance and regulations. Today, autonomous driving on public roads is restricted by law. Any autonomous vehicles that are on the road must have a driver present to control the vehicle at all times.

There is skepticism about self-driving vehicles among the public. 60% of drivers believe they make better decisions behind the wheel versus a computer.

Smart cities will be driven by new technology, especially the widely anticipated adoption of autonomous vehicles. While our smart future is full of benefits like safety and sustainability, we are only at the beginning of the road.

As the technology of vehicles and cities advance, more improvements will be made and the logistics world will be changed – a truck can drive itself and work in tandem with roads to avoid congestion and reduce emissions, and get goods to their destination quickly and reliably… and this technology-infused future is quickly becoming reality.

What do you think about smart cities and self-driving cars?

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