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How Far Away are We from Self-Driving Trucks?

With the world’s seemingly unending obsession with technology automation, it should come as no surprise that companies are leading the trucking industry into the future with the development of self-driving technology. In the sweep of advancements that are changing the way we live, work, and play, the trucking industry won’t be left behind. So, how far away are we from self-driving trucks?

Experts are suggesting that self-driving trucks may surface even before self-driving taxis. And although it is predicted that we are at least a decade away from completely autonomous self-driving trucks, several companies have thrown their hat into the ring, and are investing billions of dollars to make this concept a reality.

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Like any other advancement, this feat won’t come without its hurdles. Before the trucking industry can become completely autonomous, the technology will need to reach a point where it mirrors the situational awareness of highly skilled truckers during poor road conditions, unanticipated road hazards, and movements of impulsive car drivers. Until then, the goal of developers is to have human drivers operate the trucks during complicated city environments and on narrow rural roads, and have the trucks drive themselves on highways. They are aware that the technology won’t be able to drive all the time and during all circumstances. Beyond these issues, the industry also needs to bypass regulatory challenges before self-driving trucks can legally operate on the road.

While self-driving trucks and self-driving cars may appear to have the same economic rationale, there are some critical differences. The proposal for self-driving trucks presents an opportunity to reduce expenses, and as nearly every other industry relies on the trucking industry to transport goods, this can result in a wave of reduced costs for everyone in the marketplace.

The budding technology will be able to better coordinate movements which will cut down on wind drag, and provide more optimal speed and acceleration settings that could increase fuel efficiency. Self-driving trucks can also aid in quicker route completion, and has the potential to reduce accidents caused by driver error and fatigue.

Self-driving trucks will also, undoubtedly, affect the nature of the job for professional truckers. With the industry currently experiencing a driver shortage, and on pace for these numbers to increase dramatically over the next several decades, the automation of trucks can potentially bring a solution. 

One thing is for sure: the introduction of self-driving trucks will not only affect the driver’s role, it will also affect insurance premiums, truck stops, vocational schools, and perhaps even the roads themselves.

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