Are we already in the “future”? Robots deliver medicine to hospitals; drones deliver food to doorsteps. Logistics companies are also investing in autonomous freight transport to deliver shipments in a modern and efficient manner.
Using new and innovative technologies, self-driving trucks deliver shipments from point A to point B without human intervention – it is replaced by artificial intelligence.
Autonomous trucking technology uses high-resolution sensors to follow a designated delivery route and consider any obstacles on the way. Autonomous driving technology processes sensor data to perceive objects in real time. This technology can recognize road signs, emergency vehicles and other road users. In current pilot programs, humans monitor autonomous driving systems, but the technology is designed to eliminate human involvement entirely. Freight transportation without human involvement can become a reality of the future!
According to McKinsey business consultants, the autonomous trucking industry is likely to develop in four waves. Autonomous trucks have already been deployed and are being tested by drivers off popular highways. In the second stage, one driver is in the lead truck while the other truck follows. Consultants predict that in the next phase, autonomous trucks will be driving on the highway, possibly even more than two. Finally, routing without human intervention.
Autonomous trucks have several advantages.
♦Streamlined delivery: HGV regulations limit the number of hours a driver can work without a break. Autonomous trucks do not have similar restrictions – this allows for faster delivery.
♦Helps fight the driver shortage: Autonomous trucking aims to address the shortage of truck drivers, which is growing every year.
♦Reduces costs: With a fully autonomous fleet, operating costs would be reduced by approximately 45%. Although capital expenditure will increase with the purchase of trucks, the company’s balance sheet will be a winner during the year. It is estimated that autonomous trucking can reduce the cost of one mile (1.6 km) by about 30%.
♦Reduces carbon emissions: Autonomous trucks make logistics greener. Autonomous technology can reduce fuel consumption by up to 40%. Autonomous trucks are expected to make electric trucks more viable, which will further help fleets meet their sustainability goals.
♦Improves safety: The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that automated vehicles have the potential to “save lives and reduce injuries” because approximately 94% of serious crashes are directly attributable to human error.
Autonomous trucks offer many advantages. However, there are some potential pitfalls. First, the technology is not as reliable in fog or snow conditions. The technology requires strong wireless connections. The rollout of high-speed 5G wireless is underway but will take longer in some areas of the world. In places without 5G, driving will be much more difficult. Another concern is cyber security. Manufacturers need to develop autonomous trucks with a strong security system to prevent the risks of cyber-attack. Finally, drivers are still needed to operate autonomous trucks in cities and urban environments where software cannot currently navigate. Autonomous trucks will also need supervision, at least from the start. That means new jobs overseeing the autonomous trucking industry. But first people need to be trained to do it effectively.
There is no clear answer as to when autonomous trucks will be on the road. Several sources predict this will happen in the next decade. However, there is no doubt that technology is being developed and progress is being made. Automated trucks are successfully completing experimental trials in the US, Europe and China. The autonomous trucks monitored in the pilot program drove more than 100,000 km without any problems, showing that the future is very close.