Many people are looking to driverless trucks as the future of the trucking industry. As a growing number of automotive companies unveil self-driving technology in their vehicles, trucking industry experts are putting forward more and more reasons why driverless trucks can help to improve the American trucking industry. Some say autonomous semi-trucks will be on America’s highways before self-driving private automobiles. There is the belief that driverless semi-trucks will help to make trucking safer and more efficient among many other benefits.
Testing Has Already Begun
Automobile companies in Europe and Japan have begun to test driverless trucks. In the United States some companies have been using semi-autonomous trucks in Nevada. Tests have shown computer-assisted 18-wheel trucks can maintain safe following distance behind trucks driven by humans. In roadway tests those semi-autonomous trucks maintain a 33 foot cushion behind the vehicle ahead of them. The technology being used makes sure the truck maintains a safe, steady speed and eliminates the possibility of human error and using something like advanced cruise control gives the system time to react to changes in traffic flow.
Lower Fuel Costs
The cost of fuel is one of the highest overhead costs of operating a semi-truck for transporting goods. Being able to reduce the amount of fuel necessary to operate self-driving trucks is one of the driving forces behind the push for the new technology. Numerous studies have shown that autonomous semi-trucks are more fuel efficient. Some experts have estimated the fuel savings when self-driving transport goods to be between 20 and 40 percent of the current cost. Part of the reason is autonomous trucks can safely draft behind other trucks running in tight packs. That maneuver is unsafe for human drivers to try.
Improved Trucking Safety
Driver error leads to 116,000 people being killed or injured each year. Settling the resultant insurance claims costs the trucking industry hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Self-driving vehicles would eliminate human error. The trucks would be programmed to account for the common changes in weather and road conditions. There will be no incidences of drivers taking their eyes off the road at an inopportune time. Plus many trucking company managers say eliminating moody drivers and drivers with bad attitudes would save money because it would make things run smoother and more efficiently.
The Australian Example
In Australia there are mines where Caterpillar uses only driverless heavy-duty trucks. The trucks haul dirt and rocks along steep mining roads. They work 24 hours a day and only stop for fuel and maintenance checks. The trucks are monitored by technicians miles away. Currently the company has 6 driverless trucks in operation. Those trucks have performed so well, the company plans to use as many as 45 driverless trucks on the site. There are autonomous vehicles like this in many other parts of they world. They show driverless large trucks can work well.
For autonomous semi-trucks, the question isn’t if but when. Even Ted Scott ATA’s safety and engineering policy director recently said driverless trucks are close to inevitable. The heads of many major trucking companies are excited by the prospect of driverless trucks. They look forward to simply programming the truck and sending it off, a 300-truck firm safety director said.
The future of the trucking industry is swiftly approaching. Many strides have been made. Soon seeing a driverless semi-trucks will be commonplace and the trucking industry will be better because of it.