Automation Not Likely to Displace Drivers in Trucking Industry

Automation Not Likely to Displace Drivers in Trucking Industry

Autonomous vehicles are poised to completely transform the way that people and goods move around the world, but not everyone is thrilled by the prospect.

Truck drivers are understandably nervous about the idea of robotic trucks carrying out the work they devote their lives to, but American Trucking Association President Chris Spear said that he does not foresee such vehicles displacing drivers completely.

Speaking to a panel of American legislators, Spear said that he thinks drivers will always be needed for deliveries and pickups in crowded metropolitan areas. There are some tasks that machines simply cannot carry out, so there will always be a place for human workers. He likens this to the aviation industry, where airplanes might be equipped with autopilot features but pilots are still needed for taxiing, takeoff and landing.

Self-Driving Projects Have Drivers on Board

Nevertheless, companies are pushing forward with plans to use autonomous trucks to optimize operations. In October, Anheuser-Busch carried out the first commercial shipment via self-driving truck in the world when it sent a tractor-trailer full of beer on a 120-mile journey across Colorado. Even though no one was behind the steering wheel and the truck essentially drove itself, a driver was in the sleeping berth of the cab monitoring the events.

In another recent test, a truck by Otto drove 35 miles through regular traffic conditions in central Ohio. Once again, a driver was on board just in case something went wrong. Spear feels that these situations, with drivers on hand making sure everything goes according to plan, are a far more accurate vision of the future than sending trucks out into the world to make deliveries without any drivers on board.

While automated vehicles might ultimately eliminate the need for drivers in passenger cars, the trucking industry is likely to take on automation in a slightly different way, even if the technology used to power the vehicles is the same.

This blog post was based off of an article from The Detroit News. View the original here.