When Will We See Driverless Trucks?

Posted: Sep 18 2019, 9:22am CDT | by , in Cars & Vehicles


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When Will We See Driverless Trucks?
Image: Verge

We've been hearing about the new technology for years, but will it ever happen?

The race to autonomous cars has captured the nation's attention. However, trucking companies are also pouring the heat on big tech to deliver what could be a breakthrough for the industry. In fact, it's coming sooner than self-driving cars.

The millions of miles traversed by commercial trucks every year would be much cheaper if trucking companies didn't have to pay for human drivers. However, while this has spurred the development of advanced technologies, we may not be as close to empty semi cabs navigating the nation's blacktop as you think.

A Sea Change for Truckers?

In big business, when costs go down, profits go up. Therefore, you can understand why the trucking industry is intrigued at the chance to replace human drivers who require compensation with a one-time investment in a computer. In fact, various levels of self-driving trucks are already being tested in major cities across the United States.

It would seem that the implementation of these vehicles would be very soon, right? Perhaps not. Even though these trucks might be able to pilot themselves across the country, there's still no broader legal agreement about having driverless vehicles on the road. Passenger cars can't communicate with these trucks the way they should to fully realize a driverless system. In addition, truck drivers do more than just drive.

Why Drivers Will Be Here in 10 Years

Even a truck that drives itself can't load and unload goods, address issues with cargo, and communicate about things like road obstacles or inclement weather. Although it's possible their hands won't be on the wheel all the time, there will still be people on the road for at least a decade to come.

As with many current self-driving systems found in luxury cars, the level of awareness trucking automation systems currently offer isn't high enough to not have a human behind the wheel.

There are still great savings to be had from self-driving technology, however. For example, with a little more development, it might be possible for drivers to rest during long, straight stretches of road. This would allow trucks to stay on the road longer and deliver payloads more quickly.

Don't Quit Your Driving Job Yet

While the technology is coming, it's still a long way out. You can rely on commercial trucking to find other, more practical ways to save costs before millions of drivers are laid off. This is good news for the people employed in this industry. It's still too early to think a trucker's role will be replaced by a computer tomorrow.

When that day does come, what we may see is a transition to different tasks for drivers. In every industrial revolution, the jobs have always shifted from one discipline to another. It may not be a perfect transition, and there's no doubt some people will be affected. However, it doesn't have to be a black day for the professional truckers of the world. Rumors of their demise may have been overstated.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/56" rel="author">Scott Huntington</a>
Scott Huntington is a writer and journalist from Harrisburg PA who covered movies, tech, cars, and more. Check out his blog Off The Throttle or follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington.




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