You may have recently read that Congress passed some legislation regarding self-driving cars, check out the story from Reuters here. There’s no doubt that this is going to be wave of the future. While some fear the idea of humans not being in control of a vehicle, national auto death statistic show that humans behind the wheel can be dangerous. With advances in vehicle automation, the safest choice may lie in letting self-driving cars take the wheel. But what about self-driving trucks?
Most people think that self-driving trucks only exist in Hollywood films because they’ve never seen them in real life. However, over the past few years, there have been remarkable advances in technology which have made self-driving trucks become a reality. In 2015, one of Google’s autonomous vehicles was involved in an accident whereby three Google employees were injured after the driver failed to brake at a traffic light. Due to the occurrence of such incidents, most people have been questioning the safety of autonomous vehicles, especially self-driving trucks. Most people have criticized the invention arguing that it will leave thousands of truck driver jobless.
But is a computer better than human beings on the wheel? And where will truck drivers turn to when their jobs are taken by self-driving trucks? I guess we will know the answers to these questions in the near future since several companies are on the verge of testing autonomous trucks. Several technical challenges are yet to be resolved, but the people in support of the technology claim that autonomous trucks will be incur less expenses and they are safer. Greg Murphy, a professional driver with over 40 years’ experience, argues that the computer system drives the trucks better than he does. Greg argues that change is inevitable; he’s currently working as a safety back up driver during tests of self-driving trucks at Otto.
While Companies such as Google are struggling to create their first autonomous cars, other companies such as Daimler have been working silently on their first semi-autonomous freight truck which might end up taking Google’s place in the market. Automobile manufacturing companies face more challenges compared to manufacturers of self-driving trucks since they have to design passenger cars than can traverse different areas. Be it crowded city streets, bumpy upcountry roads or even highways. A self-driving truck, on the other hand, is a bit simpler to design since most long haul trucks spend much of their time on freeways and highways.
Although most truck drivers are freaking out about the invention of self-driving trucks since their jobs are at risk, the truth is that they’ll make life easier and the environment better. Self-driving have a higher economic impact compared to self-driving cars since they can coordinate their movements along a single stream, thus saving on fuel and the time taken to complete their routes. Heavy trucks account for 5% of the total number of vehicles on highways, yet they consume 20% of the total fuel used by vehicles. Autonomous trucks will solve this problem due to their fuel efficiency which helps reduce fuel bills by a margin of between 4 to 7%.