Autonomous Transport Trucks Are One Step Closer To Reality
The topic of autonomous transport trucks, or autonomous driving in general, is hot right now. It's been a topic of conversation for many years. We hear a lot about how trucks and cars will soon be driving themselves. The idea is still a little out there. Tesla Motors has released the Model 3, which is equipped with the hardware necessary to enable autonomous driving. It is now being explored by other companies.
It's still very young, and it is still going through trials and tests to fix problems and make them safer. It's been this way for quite some while.
However, autonomous transport trucks are now taking another step towards realizing their potential.
Starsky's retrofitted Volvo Autonomous Transport Truck
Starsky Robotics, a Florida-based company, ran an autonomous transport truck that traveled ten miles on a Florida road earlier this month. It is a public road. There are also actual cars that use this road. Humans driving them.
This is the first time that an autonomous truck has driven on public roads, and it's the only one of its kind.
It was a modified Volvo VNL truck, with a sensor suite. A person two hundred miles away navigated the truck onto the highway. After the truck reached 30 mph, the control was given to the computer on board, which drove 9.4 miles at highway speeds until the human took charge and got off the highway.
Although many companies have made it to the stage of trials, this one is the first to be conducted on a public road. The majority of others were tested on closed roads, sometimes at the location of various testing facilities. We have discussed autonomous trucks before. Starsky's involvement in autonomous trucks has been a mystery to us.
Fair enough, not much information is available about the company's venture into autonomous transport trucks. In recent years, they've been somewhat under the radar. They did transport relief goods following Hurricane Irma. An autonomous truck drove 68 miles with a driver. This is a solid track record.
This is what this means for auto shipping
It's only one more step on the long and difficult road to fully-automated trucks. It's still a long road. This step is certainly promising. But let's not forget to take it all in stride. It was 9.4 miles, and the truck was being inspected by a human. There were issues that could be fixed remotely if necessary.
This is a significant step. This shows that an autonomous transport truck is capable of handling the hazards and rigors of daily driving on the highway.
It appears that the paradigm is shifting.
Combining autonomous drive technology with an electric or hydrogen drivetrain creates a completely new paradigm. Trucks no longer need to have a driver. They no longer have to stop every few hundred kilometers to refuel with diesel gasoline, which is expensive and made from fossil fuels.
Is auto transport a dying industry?
No. It isn't going to die. But it will change dramatically. Truck maintenance will be the most expensive overhead that a carrier company will face. There won't be any drivers. This is combined with software engineers who maintain the self-driving technology, and mechanics to keep them running, and the traditional ways of managing a fleet are almost certain to disappear.
It will likely be much cheaper to have a fleet of autonomous trucks than it is now. Truckers work all day and collect their pay. Then there are the additional costs of fuel, food, lodging, and other expenses. All that money can be used to hire new workers in the new paradigm if the driver is gone. Some of the money will go back to the company or the shareholders.
Extrapolating the future for auto transport
Over the years, I have made quite a few predictions here on the blog, especially regarding the future of auto transportation. ...this is a game-changer. Although I have written before about autonomous trucks, they were still in the planning stages. They have been several years away from testing and more than a decade away from implementation.
The future is here, but it's coming fast. Are you sure that the auto shipping industry will change when autonomous transport trucks become mainstreamed? No. It is slow and it can be very slow when you're talking about industry-wide change.
However, change will be here. The drivers will be around for many decades. Prices will drop as autonomous trucks become more popular. the drivers we know today won't keep up. If we see the shift to electric drivetrains, which is most likely at the moment, prices could drop further.
In the next 20-30 years, it could be a completely new world. Get ready to get excited.