There are many other industries in which automation has been introduced a long time ago and is being used extensively. To some extent, this advancement also results in the need for less human labor. It also means that there would be fewer jobs than before for tasks or jobs that humans performed. There has also been a significant amount of advancement in the autonomous technology space when it comes to the trucking industry.
What Are Self-Driving Trucks?
Many established manufacturers such as Diamler, Tesla, Volvo, and a new entrant in the market, Otto are in the testing stages of self-driving trucks. Those who are pro-automation say that this technology will add to the efficiency, safety, and cost-effectiveness of trucking freight.
Here is a video that shows how self-driving trucks really work.
A recent Los Angeles Times article predicted that automation implementation over the next ten years could eliminate more than 1.7 million truck driving jobs. With this in view, when truck drivers hear about self-driving trucks, it’s natural for them to be concerned about their jobs. But the truth is they don’t need to be. Take a look at why:
Why self-driving trucks will take years to be allowed to roll on all roads
1. It Will Take Government Involvement
The development of self-driving trucks isn’t going to happen overnight. Many things need to fall in place for autonomous semi-trucks to make their presence felt in the market. Most states have specific laws that make the testing of autonomous trucks legal. However, ultimately, the government will have the final say and set rules that permit self-driving 80,000-pound trucks to move on roads safely. The NHTSA (Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) is the regulatory authority for trucks’ movement
There is currently legislation that has lifted most of the restrictions regarding the introduction of self-driving cars on highways throughout the country, and commercial trucks aren’t part of these bills. They might be included in future legislation. But it also means that while the technology will be developed, testing of self-driving trucks would happen only in a handful of states in the U.S.
2. Heavy-Duty Truckers Have To Be Intuitive and Skilled
If you have ever been behind the wheel of a heavy-duty truck, you would know exactly how challenging the job can be. Truck drivers have to make a series of complex maneuvers and find their way up to loading docks and busy ports. Interstate highway conditions involve inclement weather, mountain passes, and construction zones- would AI negotiate all of these successfully and safely? What happens when there are sudden occurrences like a tire blowout? Will a computer have the intuitiveness of a human driver in these conditions? While sophisticated machines may have that capability, the technology will take years to be developed, tested, and be allowed to roll on the roads.
3. Someone Would Still Have To Be In the Cab of a Self-Driving Truck
While automation in heavy-duty trucks will be introduced in phases over a few years, tech-savvy drivers would still need to be present in the cab, monitoring the controls. These drivers would take the wheel if there were construction or bad weather. Commercially-viable, level-5 autonomous vehicles are still many years away.
Before autonomous technology becomes the norm in heavy-duty trucks, it will help drivers in many ways. Big driving rigs will become safer with the introduction of systems for stability control, collision avoidance, lane departure warnings, and more. Complex situations on the road would still need to be handled by truck drivers in the cab.
The trucking industry is complicated and spread out, and it’s going to take at least 20-25 years for autonomy to be introduced and actively used in it. So, do truckers need to be worried about self-driving trucks? – Well, not really!