Are driverless trucks the new transportation industry disruptor?
According to a study by consulting firm Roland Berger, the use of semi-autonomous and self-driving trucks will yield significant improvements in fuel economy and road safety.
But what about the chronic driver shortage, which the transportation has been suffering from for quite some time. Are driverless trucks the solution?
By minimizing the daily threat of stress, exhaustion and boredom on drivers, the study also said that automated trucks could potentially attract a younger, tech-smart pool of new employees, which will help address the driver crunch.
The Tangible Benefits of Driverless Trucks
Not only could driverless trucks resolve the driver shortage, but they also could deliver a number of other tangible benefits. Driverless trucks could:
- Operate nearly 24/7, bypassing the current restriction on driver hours.
- Increase freight turnover due to greater route efficiency and shorter transit times.
- Reduce fuel consumption by as much as 10 percent.
- Potentially make truck crashes a thing of the past.
What Will it Cost to Make Trucks Autonomous?
According to a report by the American Transportation Research Institute, the technology required to make trucks completely autonomous will likely add about $23,400 to the price of a typical tractor-trailer.
However, the $23,400 price tag is mainly for the initial software. Due to inspections, maintenance and updates, the cost could be closer to $40,000.
When Will This Big Transportation Shift Happen?
Although the price tag of autonomous trucking is significant, so is its positive impact on how we work and live. So, how soon will this technology become mainstream? Though fully driverless trucks are the ultimate goal for many advocates, most proponents expect that to be further down the road. However, panellists at the Transportation Research Board’s 96th annual meeting predict that autonomous trucking will become a reality much faster — likely within five years.
In the meantime, drivers will remain part of the truck fleet for the foreseeable future. It will take technology and policy (legal and insurance) changes before any autonomous vehicles can hit the road, but the time to get familiar with this new opportunity is now. Anyone involved in the transport of goods from one place to another, including manufacturers, retailers and logistics providers, should prepare themselves for the rapid pace of change ignited by autonomous truck technology.
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