Driverless Trucks-Really?

There are lots of driverless trucks articles out of late. There is talk that a truck can do 1000 miles in one day therefore make multi-warehouses redundant. Realizing there is already one driverless truck out there Volo is testing in Europe, let’s just take a step back to consider what it will mean to logistics and the supply chain.

I am one who believes that the driverless truck technology will be of value but in limited circumstances. Public acceptance will be an issue. The ability to program for the complexities of urban delivery though makes me a skeptic about its use for local operations.

Let’s talk long haul interstate or divided highway situations. That is a controlled situation which relatives few anomalies.  If I was the head of the American Truck Association,  I would be thinking how in the world to make this acceptable to the public who is deeply suspicious of trucks in general.  I would be looking even before the technology is available for an interstate highway run test area to prove the concept to the public, that it is safe and viable. There may need to ab internet site or phone number, people can call if there is incident in its operation, which I think would offer some assurance to the public that safety is being considered. Any responsible operator of carriers, thinks safety day in and day out, but one spectacular accident involving a truck, to easily dissuades the public that is money trumps safety. An interstate highway operation would be probably easiest to control and be easiest to defend against cyber security issues.

Despite the ability to avoid human hours of service limitations, with the need for quick delivery in major urban areas, I doubt there will be significant changes in the number of warehouses and location of main warehouses in the country.  Today’s drivers can do 500 to 600 miles which is an overnight journey. The fact you can do 1000 miles in one vehicle in 20 hours really is too slow for much of e-commerce.

Pick up and delivery deals with a massive number of unusual dock and terminal situations particularly in older urban environments.  Can a machine handle blocking off the street while a truck backs into a dock off the street?   There are a lot of judgements drivers make in that situation based on situations sometimes fairly far out and down the road.  For an individual site you could program for it. It would be expensive to consider and hard to program all the possibilities for local pick up and delivery. I suspect that trucks in non-controlled environment of local streets is more of a cyber-security risk.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.


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