Autonomous trucks could become popularized before self-driving cars. Although self-driving cars were getting almost 8 times more funding than autonomous trucks, buses and logistics vehicles, in 2022 this gap in technology was far closer than expected. Some possible explanations include the reduced regulations and technology problems, trucks benefit from. Many trucks can be used in very low risk scenarios such as major highways and big factories, mines and ports.
The most famous example of the overpromises in autonomy, is in 2019 where Tesla’s Elon Musk, promised a million Robotaxis in the following few years, and by 2022, there is still major work to be done before we can see the launch of the Robotaxi, with some speculating that we are still 10 years away from a fully autonomous vehicle.
Even though it may be easier to automate a truck over a car due to the ease of programming on major highways and other simple/ predictable environments, truck companies are cautious to speed up the development as it would require much more investment.
The long wait continues…
Human drivers can be seen as the most difficult hurdle for Autonomy, because there is nothing consistent about each human driver behaves and the decisions they make while driving
“An autonomous vehicle will always hit the brakes if it encounters a testosterone-laden human male”, said Ralf Klaedtke, chief technology officer at TE Connectivity.
For Autonomous cars to become functional and consistently safe, human control, decision making, and influence need to be removed. This can be done by introducing autonomous lanes/ self-driving lanes, only meant for suitable vehicles.
No Right turns!
Although full autonomy may be a long way off, some autonomous equipment has been implemented for use in trucks. Such as the automatic robot arm that connects and detached trailers for a truck with the push of a button.
“We saw through the early hype of the technology and recognised distribution yards were the perfect near-term solution with their repetitive, low-speed operations in confined environments,” Chief Executive at Outrider, Andrew Smith said.
The benefits of distribution yard self-driving trucks are that they run on short, predictable routes avoiding right turns across oncoming traffic, schools, hospitals, fire stations, blind turns – or any other risky scenario. From this base, self-driving vehicles can be developed to adjust and adapt to their environment, this may seem like a long journey, but the base has been set and that is possibly the most difficult part.