The advent of autonomous vehicles has raised the expectations of Self Driving Trucks owners and drivers. This article explores the different levels of autonomy and their limitations. It also looks at the potential benefits and opportunities of this technology.
As the future of transportation evolves, self-driving trucks will revolutionize the industry and will become more prevalent and ubiquitous. For now, however, these vehicles are still largely restricted to certain states, as their regulations are still nebulous. Regardless of the rules, owner-operators will still have to find new ways to implement this technology.
1. Levels of autonomy
The next step towards autonomous driving in trucks is the Levels of Autonomy for Self-Driving Trucks (SAE) chart. This chart is updated every few years and currently includes Levels 3 and 4 autonomous systems. The basic framework remains the same, with six levels in between.
As these vehicles become more sophisticated, they will be able to handle complex driving conditions and handle traffic without a human being’s oversight.
Commercial vehicle technology is not far from becoming completely self-driving, and there are already some examples of them in operation. For years, companies like Waymo and Kodiak Robotics have been hauling freight with self-driving Class 8 trucks along the Southwest corridor.
But more testing is needed before autonomous trucks can be used on the highway. As trucks move closer to Level 4 autonomy, drivers can shift to other safety-critical functions. Once Level 4 autonomous trucks are fully operational, they can even eliminate the need for a human driver.
Currently, self-driving trucks are still not quite ready for prime time. Despite their promising technological innovations, these trucks are still highly dependent on human drivers. In real-world driving, such trucks must be operated by a trained driver.
Even then, the benefits of automation are clear. While trucks can handle long-distance trips on highways, they can only navigate roads that have already been mapped. The problem is that self-driving trucks aren’t good in bad weather.
While self-driving trucks will reduce the need for human truck drivers, they will still need them for tasks like unloading and driving shorter routes in urban areas. This is because software isn’t yet mature enough to navigate complex environments like city streets. Self-driving trucks will also reduce the amount of traffic on roads, which is the most significant cause of traffic jams. That means fewer trucks in your everyday life.
Currently, most companies that manufacture automated trucks are pursuing a “hub-focused” model. This approach involves human drivers at pick-up and drop-off points and onboard computer control. In a few years, fully automated trucks could cut human involvement in truck driving by 30 percent.
In addition, these trucks would improve supply chains, reduce costs per mile, and make shipping more predictable. But there are challenges to overcome before fully automated trucks can hit the road.
Self-driving trucks face several challenges similar to those faced by autonomous cars. In addition to cybersecurity concerns, autonomous trucks must contend with other issues, such as difficult-to-predict edge cases and adverse weather.
These challenges are complex but necessary to overcome. Regardless of their size, autonomous trucks must overcome three major hurdles before being widely adopted and accepted by the public.
Many fleets use robotic process automation tools to automate order entry, load planning, dispatch, and billing. While many fleets have already begun using self-driving trucks, others may not.
Therefore, it’s vital to automate support systems for autonomous vehicles to avoid issues with the trucks themselves. In addition, automating support systems will help autonomous vehicles scale without the need for human office staff, which costs approximately $0.35 per mile.
While the trucking industry has been evolving for decades, technological advancements like self-driving trucks are expected to increase the number of jobs. Whether or not they replace truck drivers will depend on the adoption of the technology.
Nevertheless, as long as people are trained and the roads are safe, self-driving trucks are predicted to be widely used within a decade or two. Regardless, there are some concerns that autonomous trucks could cause job losses.
Embark Trucks, Waymo, and TuSimple are just a few companies developing autonomous vehicles. The technology behind these vehicles will be capable of going from closed-facility operation to fully autonomous driving on the highways and backroads.
Some of these companies have even begun using their own trucks, as the United Parcel Service started to use its own fleet of autonomous trucks this year. This is an exciting development for the transportation industry and will likely spur further innovation and growth.
In addition to technological advances, several other players are also leveraging the autonomous truck trend to grow their own businesses. Real estate companies, truck stop operators, and telecoms can all help self-driving truck fleets access and upgrade their infrastructure.
Transfer hubs and 5G connectivity will allow remote maintenance. As more autonomous trucks are developed, trucking companies will be forced to invest in the technology to remain competitive. In addition, more regulation will be needed to ensure safety.
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