From the internet to mission to mars, there are leaps and bounds in technological advancement happening every second. Perhaps most extraordinarily has been the progress of autonomous driving, a means of transportation that can guide itself without a human driver. Which has been getting a lot of attention lately: Uber’s First Self-Driving Fleet in Pittsburgh, Tesla Autopilot, and the driverless Google rides that look like a cross between a Cozy Coupe and a golf cart.
Quietly and without much fanfare, researchers and entrepreneurs are working on autonomous trucks — big rigs, tractor trailers. Driverless trucks are coming to the forefront of the autonomous vehicle conversation, and that’s a big deal. One major reason the trucking industry is so interested in driverless technology is the shortage of truck drivers, which is threatening to get worse as the Baby Boom generation hits retirement age. Autonomous trucks will help the lack of driver by attracting younger, more tech savvy ones. The goal is to make the driver role redundant with autonomy. Self-driving doesn’t mean driverless, if the truck needs help, it’ll alert the driver. If the driver doesn’t respond, it’ll slowly pull over and wait for further instructions.
Remember Tracy Morgan, he was traveling on the New Jersey turnpike when a Walmart truck crashed into his limousine, his friend who was traveling with him die, and Tracy Morgan himself was badly injured. Robot trucks will kill far fewer people, if any, because machines don’t get tired. Machines don’t get distracted or get involved in anything such as texting, drugs and alcohol that somehow contribute to the yearly number of accidents and fatalities.
Another significant benefit with autonomous trucks is great improvements in fuel economy and pollution.
While the benefits of autonomous trucks are too real to pass up, the technology will have tremendous adverse effects as well. There are currently more than 1.6 million Americans working as truck drivers, making it the most common job in 29 states. The potential loss of these jobs will be a devastating blow to our economy, and the adverse consequences won’t end there. Gas stations, highway diners, and rest stops; motels and other businesses catering to drivers will struggle to survive without them.
Technology is pushing us forward in ways that we can barely understand every passing day. Autonomous trucks are no longer the future. They are the present. They’re here.