WaymoOne of the companies under Google’s umbrella that specializes in autonomous driving announced that this month it wants to begin testing actual deliveries with autonomous trucks. aurora, One of the companies developing this technology has been testing it with FedEx for several months and has already covered almost 100,000 kilometers without any safety incidents and with 100% punctuality.
we talked to armando smith How this technology can affect transportation. Armando CESTE . I am professor and have more than 27 years experience in logistics Responsibility in the departments of innovation, operations or projects, among others.
Are these announcements just the beginning of a revolution in long-distance transportation or just marketing by companies seeking financing?
Autonomous driving is one of the most promising technologies for logistics and therefore for society as a whole. When we talk about vehicles that drive on their own, we think of package-delivering drones and we imagine our car as the talking hero of a series from the 80s Which some of us still remember. However, I think that, except in the military world, It is in long haul trucks where we are going to be able to achieve the most profitability and the most positive impact in today’s society. That said, we still have a few years before these actual tests that we’re seeing in the US could make any significant difference to trucking.
So, are we going to see autonomous trucks before cars that take us to work or to the beach? Tesla and Other Companies Often Declare That Their Cars Already Work Like This
At the moment, more or less autonomous cars being announced represent a significant outlay for the buyer and a large introduction of this type of vehicle is not expected in the short term. It’s true that some cities in the US already have autonomous taxi services (on night trips, at the moment) and the conversion of all our personal vehicles to autonomous is certainly This would represent a very significant advance in terms of road safety and accident reduction. However, with long haul trucks, in addition to improving safety, we are giving a major boost to the profitability of transportation and thereby reducing the cost of most items of our daily consumption.
Why are long-distance trucks more profitable with this technology than other vehicles?
Feel is one of the companies that develops essential software for self-driving trucks and promises 10% fuel savings, 40% time savings and 300% revenue growth for each self-driving truck. According to their accounts, fuel savings are achieved, because an autonomous truck can optimize the driving parameters to the maximum (braking, acceleration, inertia …), although logically the typical savings are the drivers who replace them. will depend on These savings will be the same for any type of autonomous ground vehicle. On the other hand, over 40% of the time savings they calculate for the US, it is possible that it is even greater in Europe as our laws force drivers to rest longer hours throughout the day. An autonomous truck won’t have to make those stops because it doesn’t tire or lose its focus with working hours and that’s where its main advantage lies. It’s also the reason for the promised 300% revenue increase: You don’t even need to sleep through the night or go home for Christmas or the weekend.
So is this another concern for our truck drivers? Is this why it is less attractive for young people to start their career as a long-distance truck driver?
It’s too early to start worrying, but it’s true that This technology could transform long-distance transportation as we know it today. For starters, there are several types of trucks. Another US company, TuSimple, is setting up large highway routes that will be carried by its autonomous trucks, bringing goods closer to their transit warehouses, where other local ‘human’ truckers will make the final leg of the journey. If we use autonomous trucks to make these kinds of long journeys, what we are achieving is making the profession more comfortable as it eliminates the need to drive trucks away from home. In other words, we will convert ‘international’ drivers into local drivers with more affordable living conditions. Also, as of now, the evidence we are looking at has no evidence of removing the truck driver.
“This technology could transform long-distance transport as we know it today”
If the driver is still in the truck, are the trucks autonomous or not?
There are different levels of automation. The tests being conducted are of the so-called ‘Level 4’. This means that a driver must be present in the truck who can handle driving in case the vehicle reports a problem or encounters an unexpected condition to its software. Of course, when we talk about ‘autonomous’ we don’t think about it and thus the expected benefits we mentioned will not be achieved. For that we have to reach ‘Level 5’ which already allows the truck to go alone without anyone in the cabin. In fact, it is likely that instead of talking about ‘autonomous’ driving, we are looking forward to ‘tele-assisted’ driving. In other words, the truck can drive completely alone, but is monitored remotely by an operator who can control multiple trucks at the same time and interfere with the vehicle if the vehicle encounters a problem. Alerts to or detects a potentially abnormal situation.
It seems somewhat safe, what does it take for us to see it on our streets?
Autonomous driving on the highway is relatively simple or at least less complicated than in the city. However, we are facing many problems that it is not yet clear how they will be solved. For example, it is not enough for a truck without a driver to be able to transport goods to a specific facility. We’ll also need to be able to dock that truck to the warehouse door that an operator points to and it’s not at all obvious that’s easy to achieve. So It is likely that a final driver will have to handle that operation. But we need anyone to confirm that the goods arrived in good condition and in expected quantity. It is not enough for an operator of the destination warehouse to indicate what has been received, but also the initial person in charge of the goods to certify it. For that, it will be necessary to add cameras or other types of technology to these trucks. That is why at the moment, they are looking to move these trucks between larger warehouses of the same logistics company and later, other ‘normal’ trucks make the last kilometer to the destination warehouse. really, We have another additional problem. These trucks must know how to locate a traffic policeman who is stopping them. This is no trivial matter as anyone can wear a costume and stop a truck, so the tele-assistance we mentioned initially seems necessary.
“Innovation has always been based on improving the living conditions of humans and increasing their efficiency to make products more affordable”
Not to mention all this legal issues.
accurate. All of these tests are being conducted in Texas because in 2017 it enacted a law that allowed the movement of “autonomous” trucks without the need for special requirements, data exchange with authorities, or additional insurance. With regard to the legal changes, it is likely that they will also be implemented in Europe as the technology demonstrates that it improves road safety and therefore does not lose efficiency with respect to other geographies. Something similar has to be done with insurance. There are already some automakers who claim that, When their autonomous models are on the market, they will have their own insurance to cover the accidents they do. In 2018, an Uber self-driving vehicle caused the first fatal pedestrian accident in Tempe, Arizona. In autonomous trucks, we still have no idea about an accident, but there is always a risk on the road and remember that they are not alone yet.
In short, can we say that the future of transportation lies in automated driving?
Innovation has always been based on improving the living conditions of humans and increasing their efficiency to make products more and more affordable. With transportation it was not going to diminish.
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