People like to say that one of the reasons there’s a trucker shortage is that younger potential drivers believe robots will take over their jobs. Within their lifetimes, we will see autonomous trucking. Therefore, trucking is not considered a long-term career. Well, that day of robot truckers is here, and those robots look suspiciously like regular truck drivers. Locomotion is the company that plans to be the first to roll out their autonomous trucking solution, and they’re just about ready. They’ve just released their first voluntary safety self-assessment and things look promising. The best part is, with their Autonomous Relay Convoy (ARC) design, truckers will be a necessity in the future of autonomous trucking.
The ARC works because a certified truck driver maintains the operation. A manned truck, driven by a truck driver, leads a convoy. In these early stages, that convoy is only one other truck. The truck behind syncs with the lead vehicle to follow using autonomous technology. A second driver is off the clock in the second truck, relaxing in the sleeper berth. The drivers switch off every shift, which means two trucks are constantly moving. This results in more efficient deliveries and increased profits. All the while, truckers are at the wheel. Well, at least one of the wheels. The future plan is to have a third, completely empty, truck as part of the convoy. However, Locomotion wants to perfect the two-truck operation before it continues. The good thing is that operations are well on their way.
The US Government Ensures Autonomous Trucking is Safe
With the publication of their voluntary safety self-assessment, public officials can see how advanced this company really is. Are they ready for deployment? Can they scale this nationwide? Is it safe? All of these questions are answered, and the general consensus is that Locomotion is well on its way to becoming the first autonomous trucking fleet. The safety assessment is not just some arbitrary projections and guidelines. The testing and guidance come directly from the United States Department of Transportation. Here they include their requirements for safety that the US government prioritizes.
They include, but are not limited to:
- System Safety
- Vehicle Cybersecurity
- Object & Event Detection and Response
- Human Machine Interfaces
- Consumer Education & Training
- Validation Methods
- Ability to follow federal, state, and local laws
Locomotion seems to have no problems abiding by the USDOT’s strict guidelines. With their five pillars of safety, they feel that they are well on their way and hope to deploy their technology very soon. They are already in the process of training current drivers to work with their autonomous technologies.
Young truckers should not fear for the future of trucking. It appears that drivers will still be necessary. However, the industry will certainly look different. Truckers may require more training to not only drive the truck but be familiar with the autonomous nature of trucking. Fortunately, we may not need as many truckers in the future. What is now considered a trucker shortage may soon be considered the perfect number of drivers to maintain an efficient supply chain.