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The Autonomous Truck: A Threat to the Trucking Industry?

The autonomous truck: A threat to the trucking industry? (Image: Walmart  via   flicker  / CC BY 2.0 )
The autonomous truck: A threat to the trucking industry? (Image: Walmart via flicker / CC BY 2.0 )

Breakthrough technology has made the bizarre concept of driverless freight (self-driving trucks) a thing of the past, and tech geeks and urbanists have actually been able to overcome this once seemingly insurmountable feat.

The extent to which this concept has actually been implemented is limited, as it is in its testing stages and has thus far only penetrated some segments of the growing automotive industry. However, if the claims that this driverless technology actually turn out to be viable, it is sure to take America’s trucking industry and the entire U.S. economy by storm.

Freight trucks are used extensively on U.S. highways, such that it seems that their presence has been taken for granted, and it goes without saying that they contribute a major chunk to the U.S. economy. Fully 67 percent of the freight that moves across the U.S, or approximately 9.2 billion tons annually, is carried by these vehicles, as reported by the American Trucking Association.

Fully 67% of the freight that moves across the U.S, or approximately 9.2 billion tons annually, is carried by trucks. (Image: Thank you for visiting my page via flicker / CC BY 2.0 )

Fully 67 percent of the freight that moves across the U.S, or approximately 9.2 billion tons annually, is carried by trucks. (Image: Thank you for visiting my page via flicker / CC BY 2.0 )

Heavy trucks need skilled labor, which inevitably leads to the fact that a major population is employed in the trucking industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2014 there were around 1.8 million people who owed their income to the trucking industry. The fact that it does not require formal college education to drive a truck has also helped many people to remain employed in relatively well paying jobs.

It is high time that not only the members of the trucking industry, but other relevant parties like social scientists, economists, and politicians, take note of the drastic turn that the trucking industry is expected to take with what is anticipated in the near future regarding driverless technology.

Automakers have apparently not even unleashed their true potential as the ripple effects of launching driverless trucks are expected to reach far and wide. Presently, only a few semi-autonomous experiments have been dispatched to give an idea of what is yet to come.

The fact that it does not require formal college education to drive a truck has also helped many people to remain employed in relatively well paying jobs. (Image: jaxport via flicker / CC BY 2.0 )

The fact that it does not require formal college education to drive a truck has also helped many people to remain employed in relatively well paying jobs. (Image: jaxport via flicker / CC BY-NC 2.0 )

Some of the autonomous commercial vehicle (ACV) technology includes rear- and forward-view surveillance cameras, collision avoidance technology, and electronic stability control (ESC).

Adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning systems are some of the smart safety technologies that have already made their way into cabs as truckers go digital. Data can be exchanged in real time between vehicles and truckers to help them stay in touch and up-to-date about their surroundings.

Vehicles having the autonomy to steer themselves without human supervision while maintaining safe distance from the other cars, being able to meticulously park parallel, and escape imminent danger situations by automatically applying breaks is not far away.

The efficiency gains that will follow the adoption of driverless technology cannot be overlooked, as they are far too impactful. The technology, however, has some serious concerns to address, as truck driving is one of the most common jobs in 29 states.

Motels and other businesses such as highway inns, gas stations, and rest houses are all dependent on this sector of the economy and it is but inevitable that all will receive a drastic blow. (Image: Randy Heinitz via flicker / CC BY 2.0 )

Motels and other businesses, such as highway inns, gas stations, and rest houses, are all dependent on this sector of the economy, and it is but inevitable that all will receive a drastic blow. (Image: Randy Heinitz via flicker / CC BY 2.0 )

If the number of truck drivers decrease (who constitute 1 percent of the entire U.S. workforce), the U.S. economy will have to prepare itself for the setback. Motels and other businesses, such as highway inns, gas stations, and rest houses, are all dependent on this sector of the economy, and it is but inevitable that all will receive a drastic blow.

The displacement of jobs by the increased level of automation and artificial knowledge is a hot topic trending these days, but the successful demonstrations of driverless technology that have recently come to light have certainly raised many eyebrows.

This article was written by Monica Albert. Monica is an enthusiastic blogger who loves to write on trending topics in different niches. She is a featured author at various authoritative blogs and planned to adopt journalism as a career once finishing her Masters. For more updates, follow her on twitter @MonicaAlbert99

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