29.03
2018

Self-Driving Vehicles and the Future of Trucking

I feel as though it wasn’t long ago that I was sitting in my parents’ living room as a kid, staring at the fantastical world imagined as the backdrop for The Jetsons. Between robotic servants; self-driving, flying cars; jetpacks; drones; smartwatches; and myriad space-based buildings, among other things, the future looked insanely cool, but also so far-fetched. A thing that couldn’t exist outside the limitlessness of a cartoon fantasy world.

But in the relatively short span of time that has elapsed since then, many of those never-gonna-happen ideas not only exist today, but are readily accessible to anyone, if they’re willing to shell out a little money. (Still waiting on those space cities, though.)

One innovation that strikes a particular chord with us here at Actsoft is the self-driving vehicle. It was just about a year ago that we discussed the future of the driving industry as it pertained to the emergence of this technology. Will human drivers be replaced, forcing so many people out of jobs? And if so, what would all these people — roughly 3.5 million, according to AllTrucking.com — do if they finally found themselves without jobs?

Good news! It looks like the future for truck drivers may not be so grim after all. According to a recent survey conducted by Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, the need for truck drivers may actually increase in the wake of automation.

How can that be?

Essentially, the company doesn’t foresee self-driving trucks filling every nook and cranny of the trucking industry. Rather, these vehicles can focus on the long-haul treks, taking the wheel, so to speak, between “transfer hubs” positioned at various outposts along highways. Then, when it comes to navigating the more involved, complicated legs of the trips (read: within city limits or industrial areas), the human element would take the reins to complete the delivery.

You may still be wondering: How does any of this translate to there being not just a viable future in trucking, but a potential for even more jobs in the industry? The way Uber sees it, the proliferation of automated trucks on the road will increase the efficiency of overall freight transportation while also driving down costs. This will, in turn, create an even larger demand, necessitating an upsurge in the number of humans needed to bookend each trip.

Additionally, the localization of trucking jobs may help to keep younger generations interested in pursuing careers in an industry that is frankly difficult to staff long-term, particularly for long-haul routes. That’s because those can mean being on the road — and therefore away from friends and families — for two-thirds of the year. Automation could help solve that problem and keep attracting new recruits.

So given Uber’s predictions — as one of the companies leading the pack in self-driving vehicle development — while the trucking industry should be planning for a major shakeup, it’s not quite time to hit the panic button. But do be prepared to embrace and adapt to the evolution the industry will inevitably undergo.

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