Rumors have it that self-driving trucks may be appearing on roads near you. In 2016, Budweiser ran a shipment 120 miles through the state of Colorado, successfully, with a self-driven truck.
Many questions arise from this technological advance: Will this cause a decline in drivers? How do they even work? And most importantly, how safe could these trucks be?
With the introduction of this innovative technology there is a worry that the need for drivers will decrease 50-70% within the next thirteen years. However, these numbers are not logical. Although the trucks drive themselves, they still require a driver to sit in the cab. The idea behind the truck is to select the auto pilot feature to fight fatigue on long highways. The driver can take over at any time to change lanes, exit, or for any other reason. They are also needed for pulling into docks, dropping trailers, and navigating smaller roads.
Many accidents involving 18-wheelers occur when drivers become drowsy and this innovation will assist in decreasing these crashes. If an event occurs in which the truck cannot drive in a certain condition, such as snow, the driver will take over and safely navigate the truck in a more traditional manner.
These trucks can also sense and adapt to the speeds of cars around it to gauge a safe speed. Additionally, they are programed to keep a safe distance from vehicles around them. A cruise control can also be in affect when autopilot is activated. Cameras allow the truck to see the lines on the road to prevent it from drifting into another lane.
Trucks are being tested and monitored across the nation. In 2016, there were self-driving trucks conquering long distances throughout Colorado, Ohio, and Nevada. Many of the areas allowed the trucks to be tested in ideal traffic and roads.
Other aspects that haven’t entered the industry wide conversation include: government regulations, safety precautions, and the decision process of these vehicles when in a dilemma. When there is no longer a need for a driver to be present, how will the autonomous vehicle make a decision in an unpredictable situation?
Due to the size of these trucks, it will take time before they are regularly seen out on the roads. However, they will start popping up around the nation more so in the next decade!