Have you heard the one about the new country song about a man’s self-driving truck? It ends with his wife broken down and his truck leaving him. One jokester asked if all driverless cars decide to go to the beach, do all driverless trucks want to race to the nearest truck stop and rest? Another joke goes something like when Apple gets into the self-driving truck market, they’re bound to have trouble installing windows.
Autonomous trucks that drive themselves are becoming a reality on the road and they are no joke. With the holiday freight crunch, these computer-operated trucks are especially in the news as shippers contend with increased demand for capacity at a time of driver shortfalls. The driver shortage is expected to intensify soon with the anticipated closure of trucking companies after the final implementation of ELDs (electronic logging devices) and more stringent hours of service enforcement.
The number of manufacturers exploring semi-autonomous and fully autonomous self-driving trucks is growing. For instance, Daimler, Tesla, Volkswagen, Volvo and Google’s Waymo division are developing and testing trucks and tech giants Amazon and Uber Freight are at the forefront of the movement.
Fueling the development are well-funded tech startups like Embark, Convoy, and Otto, which is owned by Uber. Convoy is revolutionizing the freight-matching paradigm which could include shipping via self-driving trucks. Otto was responsible for the computer and software that drove a truck 120 miles down a Colorado interstate in October 2017 to deliver the first autonomous shipment of goods: a couple hundred cases of beer.
Advocates of autonomous trucks say that they will be less expensive and safer. With highly sophisticated programming, multiple cameras, radar capabilities, and numerous sensors, these trucks can safely run 24/7. With what some call missile-guidance functionality, they can accomplish goals such as coordinating multiple trucks in an energy-saving convoy. What auto-pilot does for aeroplanes, new technology could do for trucks, with the drivers just standing by to monitor, refuel and search for backhaul options after their load is delivered
How will the growing self-driving truck technology affect the nation’s 1.5 million truck drivers? Skeptics say that no machine can take the place of an experienced driver who can make instant decisions based on conditions, erratic car drivers, and changing road hazards. Time will tell.
One element of the freight business that has not changed is a motor carrier’s ongoing need to stay loaded, both heading out and heading home. FreeFreightSearch.com, the world’s largest completely free load board, can be a great source of freight for both independent owner-operators and fleet owners alike. Signing up is fast and easy at FreeFreightSearch.com.