Imagine a truck that drives itself. Sounds like the stuff of science fiction, right? It may be closer than you think. Several truck manufacturers are currently working to develop exactly this, a self-driving truck. A few already have working prototypes. Let’s take a look at these trucks.
How Semi-Autonomous Trucks Work
It’s helpful to be clear about what these things are and how they work. The industry name for self-driving trucks is autonomous trucks. In turn, those that require a driver for safe operation are called semi-autonomous trucks. These semi-autonomous trucks are the type that are furthest along in development.
Semi-autonomous trucks are controlled by a computer. The truck’s computer constantly monitors the truck’s behavior, communicating the data it finds with the driver and the back office. In some cases, the computer will adjust settings within the truck to compensate; other times the driver will need to make adjustments.
Note that these trucks need an experienced, qualified driver in order to safely operate. The greatest need for manual driving is in densely-populated cities, to maneuver around the quickly changing landscape of city streets. At other times, such as highway driving, these trucks are able to control themselves.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Semi-Autonomous Trucks
The most obvious advantage of semi-autonomous trucks is the operation cost savings. They predict accident rates will fall dramatically with these trucks, since there’s more precise control over the truck. Catastrophic breakdowns can be avoided since the computer will closely monitor the truck’s performance and maintenance needs. Self-driving trucks will also free up their drivers to do other things such as examining computer data, doing business-related tasks (like filing your HVUT!), and simply relaxing.
The main disadvantage to these trucks is cost. At present, and for the foreseeable future, semi-autonomous trucks will require a huge startup investment. Companies will need to closely examine cost savings and see how they compare with these startup costs.
Some drivers may fear that their jobs are being threatened by the new trucks. It is important to note only the autonomous trucks have no need for a driver, and the development and implementation of such trucks is a long, long way down the road. It’s also unclear at this time whether autonomous trucks are viable at all, as there is still a huge concern about the safety of a truck without a driver. So don’t worry, Trucking Nation, your jobs aren’t going anywhere!
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