Although it will be years until fully self-driving cars take over roads, major strides have been made in autonomous trucks. Several prominent autonomous vehicle manufacturers have started rolling out test fleets of self-driving trucks. They’re now gearing up to begin producing them in larger quantities within the next few years. Companies like Tesla, Daimler and Uber are developing their own versions of autonomous vehicles to deliver goods on city streets and highways. This article examines ways in which autonomous trucks can help eliminate road congestion. It also discusses how the technology can reduce wait times for drivers and shippers while addressing the growing driver shortage.
What Are Autonomous Trucks?
An electric-powered autonomous truck can be thought of as a “cargo robot” because it can carry cargo on its own. This type of vehicle eliminates the need for human drivers since the vehicle can operate completely on its own. This type of technology is already in use in several industries, including mining and manufacturing. It could significantly benefit the freight industry.
How Autonomy Helps to Minimize Driving Delays and Downtime
Without the need for a human operator, the only break an autonomous truck needs is to refuel and recharge. Autonomous trucks also significantly reduce the need for driver downtime since fatigue will not set in on machines. Here are some of the greatest assets the industry gains with autonomous trucking.
Maximizing Truck Performance
Autonomous trucks drive more quickly and efficiently than human-operated vehicles because they do not require constant monitoring or input from the driver. By removing the need for a driver, autonomous trucking companies can increase the speed of delivery while reducing delivery time and increasing profit margins. In addition, autonomous trucks reduce the risk of crashes and other incidents caused by human error since they are less susceptible to fatigue or distractions.
Avoid Human Errors
Driver error continues to be a major cause of accidents on the road. While driver training programs have been implemented to try and educate new drivers about safe driving practices, training cannot eradicate human error. Automated technology, on the other hand, is able to anticipate and identify potential hazards before they occur and take evasive action to avoid a collision. Autonomous trucks use GPS to navigate obstacles and plan the most efficient route for their deliveries, which can eliminate delays and cut down on fuel consumption.
Driving Through Off-Peak Hours
Drivers take their breaks during off-peak hours because there is usually not as much traffic during this time. Autonomous trucks can transport cargo during off-peak hours. The vehicles do not have to stop to rest or refuel every few hours as human-operated trucks do. Vehicles can make more efficient use of their time and complete their deliveries more quickly.
Reducing Fuel Consumption
On average, human-operated trucks consume up to one million gallons of fuel every year in the U.S. alone. Autonomous trucks can significantly reduce this figure with advanced navigation systems and software that optimize routes and reduces travel time. These trucks also can regulate their speeds based on road congestion to maximize efficiency and fuel economy while minimizing emissions.
Autonomous trucks could be seen as a negative to certain commercial drivers currently behind the wheel. They could also benefit drivers’ bargaining power, however, for rigs that autonomous trucks can’t, and won’t, be able to handle. When there are fewer drivers on the road, they may be able to demand higher wages from carriers.
Truck drivers spend a lot of time each day documenting their vehicles’ movements to remain compliant with government regulations. Autonomous trucks eliminate the need for most of these forms because they record their own movements automatically. The information is then stored in a central database that’s easily accessible to authorities. Truck drivers can spend more time on the road instead of dealing with paperwork. It’ll then be easier for the government to monitor the trucking industry and identify areas where improvements can be made.
The Future of Freight
Although the world may not be fully ready for the autonomous semitruck, it’s a bell that just can’t be unrung. Self-driving fleets may be an uphill battle for certain trucking companies to introduce, but they’ll empower drivers and fleet managers alike to negotiate for better wages.
According to Nokia and Microsoft’s mapping technology company, autonomous semi trucks will be on the roads by 2027.
Autonomous vehicles are legal but operate in a legal gray area since no fully automated vehicle has been allowed on the road without a human operator in case of emergency, which allows them to meet the standard of NHTSA’s regulations.
The Los Angeles Times reported that 1.7 million American truckers may be replaced by self-driving trucks over the course of the next decade.
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