The trucking industry will keep an eye on these autonomous truck tests.
Autonomous trucking could reduce delivery delays.
The autonomous car, the one that no longer needs a human behind the wheel, is still a work in progress at the start of the new year. Several obstacles stand in the way of the companies working hard to offer a means of transport that can navigate its way around obstacles with the help of a computer, but the engineers are not giving up.
On top of that, another industry is gearing up for the autonomous shift: trucking. Indeed, companies such as Kodiak Robotics, Gatik AI and Aurora Innovations all have road-testing programs scheduled for the coming year in the United States.
On the other hand, this new chapter in autonomous transportation is not necessarily welcomed by all. Indeed, citizen protection groups such as Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are speaking out against these tests, which could cause accidents, jeopardizing the safety of motorists, not to mention significant material damage.
The trucking industry defends itself, however, by asserting that most transport truck journeys are on busier stretches of road such as freeways, which facilitates the development of autonomous driving software. Admittedly, assisted driving on the freeway seems simpler, as it doesn’t have to deal with unexpected factors, such as pedestrians or cyclists. Of course, other unexpected situations can complicate the course of an autonomous vehicle on the highway, but these are rare.
The appeal of autonomous driving for delivery companies is mainly financial. Once the technology has reached a level that is safe for all road users, human truck drivers will have to make way for software capable of driving non-stop, with very few errors and never experiencing driver fatigue. The trucking industry certainly sees this last factor as one of the technology’s main advantages. Delivery times could be considerably reduced.
It will be interesting to keep an eye on this issue in 2024, as trucking has become paramount in our societies where everything – or almost everything – is transported by truck, whatever its size.