What are your thoughts on the concept of self-driving cars? Cool? Freaky? Totally unnerving?
If you think passing – or being passed – by a car with no one in the driver’s seat would be weird, how do you think it would feel to have 26,000 pounds of tractor trailer barreling along the highway behind you, with no sign of life anywhere in the cab? Would it be even worse to see a driverless truck navigating the traffic and the pedestrians downtown? Well, the future is (technically) already here.
While the likes of Daimler, Tesla and Waymo turn heads with their rush towards fully autonomous cars, the self-driving truck sector is quietly making their own inroads. Last Fall, Uber’s self-driving Otto made what has generally been billed as the world’s first autonomous truck delivery: 50,000 cans of beer, from Fort Collins, CO to Colorado Springs.
But the Future Is Not (Totally) Here Yet.
As Wired explains, the autonomous part of the delivery only lasted for as long as the truck was on the highway, with a human being present and awake the entire time. That same, real person was required to drive from origin to the Interstate, and then from the Interstate to destination.
Those sci-fi visions of robot vehicles are a long way from present reality. Yet, says Wired, autonomous driving technology could very well affect the trucking industry sooner than the passenger car sector. Accidents due to human error occur with alarming frequency in the transportation industry – some 400,000 trucks crash each year, they tell us – while there continues to be a driver shortage nationwide.
Even if the day comes where trucks are driving themselves all the way from Point A to Point B, the freight and the goods they are hauling still need to be loaded and unloaded. So even if this self-driving technology eventually puts every last truck driver on the unemployment line, the need for humans to handle certain types of cargo – like household goods – will remain.
And we won’t have a thing to worry about.
Or will we? (I’m still gonna say probably not.)