Are Self-driving Trucks The Future of Freight Trucking?

September 22, 2015 | by Marketing Team

Are Self-driving Trucks The Future of Freight Trucking | Thunder Funding

As soon as Daimler released the self-driving Freightliner Inspiration, an autonomous class 8 truck, this past May, a conversation that had been slowly growing on the margins of the industry was instantly rocketed into the spotlight.

The technology that they’re built on and how they’ll affect the role of drivers in the years and decades to come have sparked some intense debates throughout the freight world. It’s easy to balk at any change to the status quo. Newer isn’t always better. Owners and drivers who are savvy don’t want the changing landscape to leave them behind.

Let’s a take a look at some of the facts about the technology. The key issues in the debate over their use, and how they may change the industry forever.

What Does Self-driving Really Mean?

First things first, it’s important to remember that autonomous vehicles in the US are judged on a four level system, and the Freightliner Inspiration (and other trucks that are sure to follow in its footsteps) are only level 3 vehicles – meaning they are never expected to function without a driver.

They feature what the NHTSA defines as “limited self-driving automation,” and that’s just what it sounds like. In some limited situations, i.e. on a highway, in good conditions, the truck is able to drive itself. Despite concerns of self-driving trucks replacing human drivers, they cannot operate on surface roads yet.

The new technology combines cameras and two types of radar to manage speed and lane position within the highway environment. However, a licensed driver has to be in the seat at all times, ready to take control if conditions change.]

When needed, the system will alert the driver to take control before reaching an exit or other necessary transition point. In fact, if might be better to think of the technology as a much advanced cruise control.

Both Sides of the Issue

Early skeptics of the autonomous truck systems point to perceived shortcomings in a handful of areas including security, driver disengagement, and the high cost of transitioning a fleet to this new technology.

The potential for remote infiltration of a truck’s guidance system is a major concern for driver and cargo safety. Freightliner emphasizes the guidance system’s lack of internet accessibility and self-containment.

Concerns about driver disengagement focus on the perceived lack of driver participation, but that may be blown out of proportion. The current system has many, many shortcomings when it comes to navigation, even on the highway – alert, engaged drivers are still a key part of the system. The autonomous system acts as an advanced cruise control; without a driver, the truck cannot change lanes.

The cost of transitioning a fleet to the new technology is undeniably significant. To mitigate the upfront cost, consider partnering with a freight factoring company. This way you can maintain a sufficient cash supply despite fleet investments.

There’s also serious fuel savings to be had with an autonomous fleet, which is able to safely platoon together on the highway at only 25 feet apart, increasing the aerodynamic performance of all the vehicles and resulting in a 5 or 6 percent boost in efficiency.

For more information about trends in trucking be sure to check out this blog post: Key Trucking Industry Issues  To Follow Us Into 2021

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