The Automation of Trucking – Self-Driving Trucks are the Future


Automation and technology has received a bad reputation over the course of the last century because of the impact it has on the job market. Despite this though, automation has continued to advance and find its way into nearly every industry. The reason for this, is the efficiency that it offers to each sector, and even the most vocal critics of technology and automation take advantage of the benefits and high quality of living that is created thanks to advancements. The momentum of the spreading of automation will not be slowing down anytime soon either. While it is most known in manufacturing and packaging industries, it is becoming increasingly visible in day-to-day life with a big example being self-checkout machines that can be found in grocery stores and large chain-restaurants. People are becoming more comfortable with seeing these kinds of machines around, but an unexpected and exciting place that they might find automation is in their own cars. Automated or “self-driving” vehicles are being developed, with cargo-trucks paving the way for this once-futuristic idea.

Why Trucks?

There are a number of advantages that would come along with automated transport trucks. The first is that it removes room for human error. This comes into play the most on long journeys. Drivers get tired over the course of the shift, but still have schedules that they have to make. Self-driving trucks obviously do not, completely removing the risks that come with compromised awareness and increasing the safety. Similarly, food and bathroom-breaks also become unnecessary which could potentially lead to quicker delivery times.

Automated trucks would also simplify cargo that needs to cross international borders, such as the Canadian and American land border. While the vehicle and products would still need to be reviewed, the personal information of the drivers would not have to be examined. This would speed up the overall process.

Still in Development

Daimler Trucks North America is one of the main powerhouses testing self-driving trucks, and have remained tight-lipped on the process. A number of critics have cited potential issues that may arise that would stand in the way of these automated vehicles being realized. There is concern about the lack of intuitive thought in this technology, which would allow a human to adapt according what a given situation calls for. This can be things like switching lanes to avoid debris on the road or navigating roads with poorly marked lane lines. It is preparing for these unexpected situations that will be difficult to develop in the technology. In addition to these practical concerns, there is also the issue of lack of regulations. There has never been self-driving automobiles yet in human history so there are no laws and safety guidelines in place to protect other drivers and pedestrians. Before these trucks are able to be used on the roads there will first have to be established regulations decided on to ensure they meet the minimum requirements. Despite all of these obstacles Daimler Trucks still expects to have these trucks on the road in the next 3-4 years, indicating they are already far along in their development.

What This Means for You

All of this speculation inevitably leads everyone to wonder what this will mean for the job market in the coming years. Currently in the United States there are 4.4 million jobs that are related to driving, with a little over half of that being truck driving specifically. It is expected that in the next 15 years 50-70 percent of those jobs will be made obsolete mainly due to the automating of the industry. Europe will be going through the same process with similar numbers. On the surface these numbers sound scary, but it is not as bleak as it seems. Daimler has stated that the technology being developed will be used in conjunction with human drivers. This makes sense, especially when the technology is first being tried out in the real world. After the initial wave of these new trucks, it is more likely that far fewer new drivers will be hired rather than older ones being let-go. What this means is that the trucking industry is undergoing a big change just like many others have in the past. The job market isn’t getting smaller, rather it is simply changing. Instead of needing drivers for trucks, this industry will need skilled professionals with industrial automation training who can service these futuristic pieces of technology. Staying updated and receiving an automation technician certificate will ensure that young people looking for a position can find one.

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