In the field of self-driving trucks, a lot has happened recently. More companies have developed, technology is being tried, legislation is being examined, and the day when driverless trucks will be commonplace on the road is rapidly approaching. Many in the industry are enthusiastic about this technology since it will assist with productivity, fuel efficiency, prices, and highway traffic. With the trucking business continuing to grow, truck drivers’ primary concern is the safety of their jobs.
Uber recently stated that its driverless truck initiative would be discontinued despite making history with the first automated truck delivery back in 2016. Uber has chosen to discontinue its self-driving truck effort in order to devote more resources to self-driving vehicles. Although, many organizations continue to invest a significant amount of effort and money in this space. Here are a few of the most well-known companies that are making significant progress toward mastering driverless trucking technology.
Daimler, which owns Mercedez-Benz and Freightliner Trucks were one of the first companies to enter the self-driving truck market. Since 2014 they have been testing an automated truck. Daimler is concentrating on a number of factors, including truck platooning and having a driver for exiting the highway safely. It has plans to open a fully autonomous truck research center in Portland, Oregon.
Tesla’s Semi truck was originally unveiled in November of 2017. Those trucks were expected to start delivering in 2019. Tesla’s trucks will use the same self-driving software as their cars: autopilot. Tesla’s autopilot is a semi-autonomous technology in which a computer controls acceleration, braking, and steering while a human remains behind the wheel at all times. Tesla wants to provide a platooning feature in which automated vehicles follow a single lead truck driven by a human.
Even though the Tesla Semi truck was quite promising and extremely appealing production halt was announced in 2021. The announcement of a production halt was after shocking 2021 second-quarter earnings. A Tesla spokesperson indicated that the production halt was primarily due to a focus on factory improvements. Additionally, due to shortage of battery cells, the full-scale production of the Tesla Semi would be difficult. The company has made no further statements regarding a permanent halt of Semi truck production.
In 2016, a new company by the name of Embark was created in San Francisco, CA. Their strategy entails in allowing truck drivers to spend less time driving and more time delivering. Therefore being able to deliver more cargo and freight on daily basis. The goal is to automate the driving process on the highway, where people spend the majority of their time. An optional feature to allow a truck driver to take over during departure is also something that is being tested and explored further. Embark plans on testing its self-driving trucks between El Paso, Texas, and Palm Springs, California.
Waymo, a division of Alphabet, the parent company of Google has been testing its self-driving trucks in California and Arizona for over a year now. They were put to a real-world test by delivering freight to various Google data facilities. Each self-driving truck is equipped with a radar navigation system in addition to a human driver in the event of an emergency.
Self-Driving Trucks: Are they Safe, Durable, Reliable?
A lot of money and research has gone into the development of self-driving trucks. It is most definitely the next wave of technological evolution in the trucking space. However, there are still concerns about the safety, durability, and reliability of this type of technology. Since 2011, Google has been testing self-driving cars and has logged millions of kilometers. There have been 20 crashes involving a self-driving car have occurred throughout this time where one of those crashes was caused by the car.
While this is good news, a self-driving truck is not the same as a self-driving automobile. Trucks are obviously bigger in size and, unlike cars, are unable to maneuver around potential collisions. When braking, a truck takes longer to reach a complete stop, and there isn’t much room to dodge cars or pedestrians while on the road.
Additional safety concerns of these self-driving trucks are about the sensor’s location. It is located on top of the truck’s cab. The sensors, which are comprised of a combination of radars and cameras assist the self-driving truck with navigation and control. If the sensor is mounted on top of the truck’s cab, it may be dazzled by the sun, have difficulty differentiating between cars and huge signage, and be affected by bad weather. All of this could eventually cause problems for trucks in urban areas with frequent stops, twists, and tight spaces.
How Soon Will Self-Driving Trucks Arrive?
Despite the uncertainties that surround the automated vehicle business, “Tech executives and bankers alike are convinced that self-driving trucks will become the standard as early as the next decade,” according to Business Insider. Many people assume that self-driving trucks will arrive before self-driving cars. This is due to the relative ease with which self-driving trucks can be programmed to operate on the highway, where trucks spend the majority of their time. Unlike a self-driving car that spends a good amount of time in city limits and suburbia.
With numerous companies having conducted successful tests, the reality of self-driving trucks on highways is getting closer. There are still some issues in the technology to iron out, and legislation to enact, but given the current trajectory, self-driving trucks will most certainly be completely operational within the next decade.
Are Truckers Soon To Be Jobless?
No, not every truck driver will lose their job. In fact, many individuals feel that the advent of self-driving trucks will have quite the opposite effect. As automated trucks become more common, more manpower will be needed to operate them. Every company that’s currently testing their trucks has the primary objective of always requiring a driver in the cab. There are far too many things that can go wrong without human presence in the truck when it is on the road.
However, this does not rule out the possibility of job changes in the transportation industry. The most significant difference is that drivers will be expected to do less manual driving, which may be considered as a benefit. It can also be viewed as a disadvantage. Suddenly, a truck driver’s job is gradually becoming more and more comparable to that of an airplane pilot. The truck will be capable of driving on its own, but the public will feel much better knowing that someone is behind the wheel in case something goes wrong.
If you’re a truck driver scared about losing your job to an autonomous vehicle, we hope this update puts your mind at ease and gets you excited about the trucking industry’s future. Even if self-driving trucks are allowed on the highways, truckers will continue to play a vital role in the transportation space.
Are you interested in getting into the trucking space? Have any questions? Reach out to us at (909) 746-0370 or by email at: email@example.com. You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.