Self-Driving Trucks are Here!
In the box office hit movie “Logan”, the hero of the movie, Wolverine (played by Hugh Jackman), has several run-ins with armored self-driving trucks. 2029 is the year the movie takes place. Self-driving trucks could be here sooner than the movie is foreshadowing (without the armor!). We expect self-driving trucks to be common in the next five to ten years. There are numerous advantages and disadvantages to autonomous or self-driving trucks. Let’s take a look at both sides of the debate:
- Advantage: The economic rationale for self-driving trucks might be stronger than the one for driverless cars. Autonomous trucks can coordinate their movements to platoon or follow closely together over long stretches of highway, improving aerodynamics and saving on fuel. This enables faster and more efficient movement on the roads, thereby getting freight to its destination sooner.
- Disadvantage: Current technological limitations have prevented self-driving trucks from successfully driving on small rural roads or in busy urban environments. A human driver will still be required to be alert and in the truck ready to take over at a moment’s notice should something go awry. Also, loading and unloading the trucks must still be done by a humans, at least for now.
- Advantage: Driving a truck is one of the most stressful jobs in the United States. If self-driving trucks still require a driver in the cab as expected, stress levels will be reduced tremendously. In addition, recruiting and training truck drivers could become easier and the long-standing driver shortage could be eliminated. The advance in truck driving technology could become attractive to drivers and attract a new segment of the population.
- Disadvantage: Safety, local, federal regulations and cyber-security are major issues that will complicate mainstream adoption of autonomous trucks. The U.S. Transportation Department will have to take the lead in research and policy making to navigate the complex laws on both local and national levels.