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Autonomous Trucks Are On The Horizon

Autonomous vehicles are becoming more of a reality in cities across the country. The most recognizable of these new breed of vehicles are the Google cars that traverse city streets, rural roads and highways alike. However, passenger vehicles aren't the only ones targeted for autonomous operation. Industry news outlets are talking about new guidelines published by the government regarding the manufacture and use of autonomous semi-trucks. Proponents of this move say that trucking companies, truck drivers and other motorists will benefit in three important ways.

Cost Savings

Trucking companies invest a great deal on recruiting, training and retaining drivers. Trucks that operate autonomously, however, require no driver, therefore all of these expenses are effectively eliminated. However, this is a scenario that won't materialize for quite some time. A more likely scenario in the near future are platoon style vehicles. The concept is to have one human driver operate a truck that then leads up to two others to the cargo's destination. Therefore, the company's costs, as far as driver wages and benefits go, are effectively reduced to one-third of the current cost.

Driver Advantages

While it may seem as though the introduction of autonomous trucks would be detrimental to drivers, this is hardly the case. The reality is, there won't be fully driverless semi-trucks for quite some time, in fact, the first aren't expected to hit the roadways until 2030. However, drivers are currently reaping the benefits of this advancement in trucking technology. Driver assisted technology such as radar sensors, cameras, and automatic emergency braking systems are already in use in some trucks.Crash avoidance systems are another vital function of autonomous vehicles that already exist.

Improved Safety

The Obama administration recently announced its guidelines for autonomous vehicles, including semi-trucks, which it believes will increase safety for all. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hope the move will bolster advancements in technology that help reduce fatalities and crashes on American roads. Their concerns are not unfounded. In 2015 alone, over 35,000 people died as the result of collisions. More to the point, however, is that as many as 94 percent of those crashes were caused by human error. Eliminating the human influence, therefore, should reduce, the number of accidents and fatalities.

Technology has changed many aspects of our daily lives and it will, no doubt, continue to impact the way we work, play and live. Likewise, autonomous vehicles will make a major contribution to improving the way trucking companies transport cargo. In the transitional period, truck drivers will find their jobs getting easier. Finally, motorists and truck drivers alike will be safer as they travel down the highways towards their destinations.