The Autonomous Truck...Really??

By Ross Froat posted 08-04-2014 15:00


If you’re going to talk about the future of trucking, and have been up to date with technological events, then there's no reason why the autonomous truck shouldn't be the first topic to blog about. It's been on every scientist's, engineer's, car and truck driver's mind ever since they entered their first traffic jam.

"The autonomous truck, the way of the future." Is it really?

Like the auto industry, commercial trucks are always a step behind due to a number of reasons that you can find on any USDOT website. Mainly for the safety of everyone else on the road, commercial vehicle technological advancements are taken with a heavy dose of NPRM’s, SNPRM’s, and ANPRM’s. A future truck program that exists is projected to be finished and released by 2025, probably more like 2030 and more years after in the US. But at any case, following the technology and thought leadership behind it is what I’m excited about.

Using a computer based system that (like any other computer) takes input from multiple scenarios, translates, configures, and outputs super instantaneously commands to the vehicles operation; the driverless truck is born. The human driver is able to switch control of the truck to the vehicle's embedded system and ride hands-free as a passenger. In order to allow the truck to autonomously drive alongside other cars, the autonomous system uses a combination of vehicle-to-vehicle communication via Wi-Fi (with a range of 1,640 feet), lateral radar on both sides of the truck (with a range of 197 feet) and full range (820 feet) and short-range (230 feet) radar mounted on the front of the truck. The truck also uses a front stereo camera, mounted just under its windshield.

The explanations of driverless future technology are endless. The most important part to remember is that there is still a human in control of a switch to turn on-and-off the autonomous control. Is this a good thing or not, I ask you? I hope for drivers to stay more important than the vehicle, when that becomes a question the trucking industry has a real problem on its hands. V2X is a certainty that will have happened and be yesterday’s news by the time autonomous commercial vehicles leave the dealerships. Autonomous trucks give a range of new professional skills and jobs, traffic and accident relief, violation forgiveness, freight logistic efficiency, etc. The benefits are significant if, and only if, the system is perfect. And I have never seen a perfect system.     

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