Five Driving Forces Behind Driverless Trucks
The introduction of driverless trucks could be the biggest change the transportation industry will ever see, and the concept is closer to reality than you might think. Vehicle manufacturers say drivers will still be essential in the next 10 years, and the technology will be there to assist drivers rather than take their jobs.
Daimler, one of the world's largest truck manufacturers, demonstrated a prototype truck that drove autonomously on an autobahn in Germany, and successfully navigated a junction in real driving conditions. The trucks are equipped with a Highway Pilot assistance system that allows them to navigate successfully at speeds up to 53 mph. Daimler's demonstration proved just how real the technology is.
There is no indication that autonomous technology will replace existing drivers in the future, but the technology helps free up drivers so they can work on other duties to maximize their time.
Here are the five driving forces behind driverless trucks:
- The driver shortage. One reason behind introducing driverless trucks is the driver shortage crisis. As people shy away from careers in trucking, costs will rise for commercial operators and their shipper clients.
Autonomous vehicles will help alleviate the driver shortage, and offer the opportunity to enhance the driver's role. Drivers could become responsible for transport management duties that they can complete during the time the computer is in control.
- Safety. Increased safety is an advantage of the autonomous truck. Public perception will demand absolute reliability with this new technology. The technology will need to be proven before any driverless vehicle is allowed on the roads. Any operation involving driverless vehicles on public roads will need to be part of a much larger regulation system.
- Congestion. One of the leading reasons for the heavy investment in driverless truck technology is the potential increase in transportation efficiency. Predictions that road congestion will rise in the near future creates a need to break the link between economic growth and road transport.
German authorities predict that truck transportation volume will increase by 39 percent by 2030. The transport industry needs to use existing road capacity more efficiently, and driverless vehicles can help achieve this goal.
- Technology. There have been major developments in driver assistance technology. For example, Daimler's Proximity Control Assist adapts the vehicle's speed, depending on traffic conditions, through an integral cruise control and braking system. Three-dimensional maps exist for a Predictive Powertrain Control system, while telematics products for driver and operator vehicle and transportation management have already been rolled out.
- Costs. Throughout Europe, drivers are responsible for an estimated 45 percent of the total cost for motor freight carriers. Eventually removing drivers will have a huge impact on truck transportation costs and profits.