How Self-Driving Vehicles Could Change the Transportation Industry
Self-Driving Vehicles are Changing the Future
While the average consumer might not realize it, every business owner, manufacturer, and third-party logistics provider knows that trucks touch virtually every corner of the economy. Trucks move food, cars, fuel, electronics and about a million other things. It should come as no surprise that the trucking transportation industry is valued at $700 billion. And that value is only projected to increase, especially with so much exploration and interest in self-driving vehicles.
Transportation companies including Uber and Tesla have already invested more than $1 billion in autonomous driving technology. They seem intent on making self-driving vehicles become a reality sooner rather than later.
What’s the Current Status of Self-Driving Vehicles?
Self-driving trucks are closer to getting on the road than some may care to admit. But it’s important to realize that there are two basic camps when it comes to vehicle autonomy. There are those companies who want to create technological solutions to assist human drivers as they drive. Then, there are those companies who are solely focused on replacing human drivers altogether with fully autonomous vehicles.
We’ll likely see vehicles equipped with driver-assisted technology on the road before fully self-driving vehicles. The reason is that lawmakers and the general public aren’t quite comfortable with the prospect of “robots driving cars.” Despite the apprehension, experts predict self-driving passenger cars will be on the roads by 2020. Autonomous trucks, though, are a tougher sell.
First, trucks require more complex technology based on their size. And second, while many are confident in the ability of autonomous trucks to handle straight highways, it’s the nuances of city streets that may present more of a challenge. Until there is widespread ease about the level of safety on the roads with human and autonomous trucks sharing space, self-driving trucks may still be some years away.
What’s in the Future for Transportation?
Even though there are still hurdles to overcome with regards to self-driving trucks, there is no reason to think they will never be a reality. When customer acceptance, regulations, and safety concerns all align, autonomous trucks will be commonplace and create a seismic shift similar to when the internet came online. And that’s not hyperbole.
The benefits of self-driving trucks according to experts include huge cost savings throughout the entire supply chain. There will also a large investment in electric autonomous trucks, rather than gas-powered, which can only help to reduce a company’s carbon footprint. Plus, despite current concerns to the contrary, the roadways will be safer with more high-tech self-driving trucks on the road.
On the other hand, without the need for a human behind the wheel, hundreds of thousands of truckers could be without a job, not to mention those employed by freight brokers and other related businesses. It’s understandable that the thought of 100% self-driving trucking fleets creates worry for those who rely on human-driven trucks as part of their livelihood.
What’s the Bottom Line?
The idea of fully autonomous trucks is still a concept in the works. Truckers and others in the industry can breathe easy as their jobs don’t seem to be in jeopardy for the time being. Plus, when self-driving trucks do become a reality, you won’t see every trucker in the country being handed a pink slip on the same day. Remember, the internet hasn’t completely done away with brick and mortar stores as some predicted.
More likely, we’ll see a slow roll out of a combination of completely autonomous trucks, semi-autonomous trucks that require a human driver, and even new jobs created for thousands of human workers who will need to keep this new transportation industry running smoothly, efficiently, and safely.
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