With digital transforming almost every sphere of work and life, even the truck industry is uncertain about how exactly the future of trucking would be like. Will digital transformation take over the industry or is all the buzz more hype and less content? Let’s find out.
If one has to go with what the world of autonomous technology claims, teamsters (truck drivers) would become obsolete within the next decade. Apparently, complete self-driving automation is in its final stage and one shall expect the technology taking over our roads starting 2025.
As aforementioned, the technology required to make this happen is in its finishing stages, with tests being carried out on non-public roads. In fact, some of the transportation that’s happening between the Nammuldi, Hope Downs and Yandicoogina mines in Western Australia are courtesy driverless trucks. Remote operators supervise the trucks, which respond to GPS. There have also been experiments carried out on public territory.
The rationale behind getting driverless trucks on the road is to increase safety and reduce costs. However, reducing expenditure by limiting the workforce is a controversial topic that needs a completely separate discussion. As far as safety goes, the majority of road accidents and related deaths are due to human error. It therefore makes perfect sense to bring about technological improvements for supporting or replacing the driver during emergencies.
Systems such as adaptive cruise control can reduce truck-related collisions, especially rear-end accidents, which are the most common. The technological advancements are expected to further reduce these dangers and positively influencing costs simultaneously. Better traffic flow management would translate into lesser fuel consumption.
The next biggest cost factor is the driver. In the initial stages, it’s expected the driver would still be around the steering wheel of a driverless truck, donning the role of a supervisor or manager, and taking control of the truck whenever required. The driver can also utilize idle time behind the wheels to arrange meetings, appointments, gather data about the traffic scenario or unloading and loading points, or take care of private matters.
However, the major requirement for this innovation has got to do with the software. The sensor input processing needs to be so practical that the vehicle is not just able to comprehend the immediate surroundings, but also adapt to unknown scenarios, obey street laws, be constantly aware of the vehicle’s exact position on-road, and consider vehicle movements to make the optimal route. Also, the truck should be able to integrate a failure-operational architecture, which safeguards against technical debacles and covers system failure. Moreover, the per-unit expenses have to be reduced further.
Driverless driving hasn’t had the same reception in different parts of the world. Legal hurdles are preventing completely autonomous driving to take shape, which calls for the establishment of a fresh legal framework. But there’s one major question: if the driver is completely removed and there is an accident, who would be responsible for the accident?
Some experts and institutions believe autonomous vehicles would cause disruption in both the private and public sector. Forecasting growing social tensions is not that difficult, as employees would certainly become job-insecure or struggle to stay relevant in or adapt to the new environment, which would be primarily managerial instead of operational. Therefore, the big question is whether institutions and politicians in general can guide the change in the right direction.
The current reports on the autonomous technology maybe miscalculated the pace with which the changes would take place; it is not easy to take all variables into account. On the other hand, there could be underestimation too. Ultimately, as far as technology is concerned, the pace of disruption would always exceed expectations.