A Look into the (Not Too Distant) Future—Self Driving Trucks

Posted in Blog, News  
Monday, April 27, 2020

 

When it comes to robotechnology and its impact on our daily life, staying current on advances such as self-driving trucks is a constantly moving target. In this blog post, we will talk less about the how of driverless technology and more about the questions the public might have as to the possibility of a freight industry without drivers.

 

Recent Media Coverage

On March 15, 2020, 60 Minutes aired a show that might alarm some of you and might give others some comfort about the future of hauling freight, not only in America, but worldwide. 

 

The headline of the 60 Minutes piece reads “Automated trucking, a technical milestone that could disrupt hundreds of thousands of jobs, hits the road,” which, for the millions of people who drive trucks as a career, might cause a bit of anxiety. The body of the report, though, raises some questions about safety and the reality of a truck going solo. 

 

Benefits of Driverless Trucks

One benefit noted in the 60 Minutes story was the elimination of, and need for, stops. An autonomous truck doesn’t need sleep, bathroom breaks, and personal time for drivers. The only reason to stop would be for fuel, but you need a human for that. This would move freight faster, but at what cost?

 

With this new technology, there would be no more distracted drivers behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound truck and no rule breaking. When there is no human aspect in truck driving, the desire to check a text or speed to get to one’s destination on time will be removed. This could reduce accidents, but there is always the question of what happens when technology fails.

 

Concerns About Robot Driven Trucks

A concern mentioned in the 60 Minutes piece was the loss of intuition with no driver in the truck. Especially when out of the ordinary events occur, such as a flag person waving traffic around an accident. The truck’s artificial intelligence will have to include this challenging human component built-in to be considered safe on the road. 

 

There is also always the possibility of hacking with a completely computer run system. A computer hack in a driverless trucking industry could have devastating consequences, from running a truck off the road to rerouting the delivery to a completely different location. There’s always a way to hack into a program, so these systems will have to start as high functioning with many fail-safes to reduce security breach concerns. A cyber attack on a grand scale could take down more than this futuristic trucking industry and that widespread effect is always something to consider before creating a completely computerized system.

 

Summary    

There are a lot of potential benefits that could result from driverless trucking, but we’re still a long way from technology being advanced enough to keep everyone on the road safe. When technology fails, because we all know it does, a truly driverless truck might not be the answer. When lives are on the line, the right technology is worth the wait! At NTB, we value our drivers. We’d like to hear your thoughts about the future of trucking. Give us a comment here or on our Facebook Page.

 

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