Automated technology is a tricky subject for truck drivers. To be clear, few truckers on the road today will lose their jobs to self-driving technology. Fully automated vehicles (AVs) won’t be available for a long time and the public is too wary of driverless cars to allow rapid implementation – two of the points we made in our recent article, “4 Reasons Why Truckers are Here to Stay.” However, the story may be quite different in 40 to 50 years. Today we want to look to that more distant future and attempt to understand Why Self-Driving Technology is Coming, Despite Concerns.
Safety: According to Sandeep Kar, an expert in truck systems and technologies, “The future truck will be a safe truck.” It will have more advanced innovations which, in the event of an accident, will be more likely to “save the life of the driver and people around them.” Basic automation could give truckers a restful break during simple stretches of road so they’re alert to take over during more complex navigation. Plans also exist for higher level AVs to have intervention and response systems that can avoid or react to accidents faster and more efficiently than a human driver would be able to.
No, we’re not there yet. Today’s self-driving technology isn’t quite so advanced and recent collisions have shaken the public’s faith in AVs. However, as the technology develops and is proven to be safe, public perception will shift and the government may eventually mandate it. One day, the future demand for proven-safe AVs will outweigh present concerns about driverless vehicles.
Financial Incentives: The monetary savings for both manufacturers and transportation companies is too great for them to ignore. The biggest OEMs are global companies and nations around the world are paving the way for AVs. Take China, which consistently strives to compete technologically with America and has a massive population known for embracing new technology. While only 52% of Americans would consider riding in an driverless taxi, 75% of Chinese citizens would do so. Why does this matter? Because it’s always cheaper to mass-produce vehicles, systems, and parts. If the world wants AVs, that’s what global OEMs will produce, which means that U.S. buyers will have increasingly limited options for products that don’t include self-driving technology.
In addition to manufacturing, there are simply fewer costs associated with maintaining AVs. From decreased idling time to optimizing routes, AVs can save on fuel costs, especially once they can connect and coordinate to decrease congestion and time on the road. And once they really are safer than human drivers, that’s far fewer costs for accident liabilities and damages. Also, companies will be able to expand as much as they want, without worrying about the ongoing driver-shortage. This leads us to a final point, one most truckers dread: Someday, companies may figure out how to totally eliminate the need for an in-cab human, which would save them from having to provide salaries and benefits. We’re not thrilled to mention that one, but it’s a real likelihood for the future, if not for another 50 years or more.
Attracting Drivers: As we continue to mention, drivers won’t be replaced by robots anytime soon. In the meantime, fleets will keep looking for ways to bring new drivers and younger generations into the industry. According to Kar, trucks with lower level autonomous features will “entice young drivers by giving them a work environment that is less stressful, less disenfranchised – that enables them to connect to the world outside.” AVs can reduce stress, break up monotony, and improve health, which improves the quality of life for drivers. In other words, self-driving innovations can make trucking more appealing and help end the driver shortage.
What do you think? Is self-driving development inevitable?? Let us know in the comments below!!