Self-Driving Trucks Continue to Raise Concerns
Self-driving trucks are a real possibility for the near future, one that would impact nearly 3.5 million truck drivers across the U.S. Many truckers and safety advocates have voiced concerns over self-driving technology, even as more companies invest in autonomous vehicles.
Truckers’ Concerns Regarding Self-Driving Technology
Many American workers have lost their jobs to computers and automation, and truck drivers fear they may be next. Goldman Sachs predicted that 300,000 truckers could lose their jobs each year starting in 2045.
Truckers express concerns regarding whether the latest self-driving technology is reliable, safe, and capable of performing as well as a human driver. These concerns only increased with the news of a fatal Uber accident in Arizona involving a self-driving car and a pedestrian.
One trucker with nearly 50 years’ experience says he doubts that the technology will be able to distinguish between a deer and a child, and that it will not always be able to make the right call. Others in the industry also remain unconvinced that self-driving technology will be an adequate replacement for a seasoned truck driver who knows the road and its rules.
The Future of Trucking
Corporations are poised to reinvent the trucking industry. Google’s self-driving car business, Waymo, is currently testing its trucks on highways and streets in Atlanta. Another company, Embark, recently completed a cross-country five-day run in its self- driving truck. Tesla recently released its electric truck, the Tesla Semi, which has self-driving autopilot aids.
Peloton Technology is working with sensors to capitalize on aerodynamics, by keeping two trucks within 50 feet of each other, resulting in 4.5 to 10 percent fuel savings for each truck.
Other companies are working to develop technology that allows trucks to be operated remotely. Developers say this will allow truckers to spend more time at home.
However, some are not so sure it is a safe option. A member of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association expresses concerns over who will insure the trucks if no one is driving them, and who will be held liable in the event of a crash. The Teamsters Union also released a statement expressing objections to self-driving trucks being tested on public highways.
Regulators and insurance companies are still looking into the implications of self-driving vehicles. Many self-driving technology experts say that humans will always play a vital role in navigating big rigs around city streets, and according to a trucking industry analyst, the self-driving truck trend becoming the norm is still a long way out.
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