What is the Latest News on Self-Driving Trucks?
We have all seen video clips of self-driving trucks cruising around a controlled area with no human driver on board and read articles about the impact they’ll have on our roads and the shipping industry. There are some who say driverless technology is imminent and others who say it will never happen, regardless there are many companies actively working on the concept.
The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) has created industry guidelines to describe the different levels of vehicle automation from Level 1 (no automated assistance technology) to Level 5 (fully automated in all conditions with no human on board).
Heavy-duty trucks are behind the automotive industry in offering Level 2 features such as adaptive cruise control and lane departure protection. While cars have had this technology for a number of years, these features are just now starting to appear in trucks. In the near future trucks will also start seeing automated braking, acceleration and steering. Experts expect trucks to stay at this level for many years to come and these technologies will make driving trucks safer and easier in addition to reducing driver stress.
Level 3, 4 & 5 trucks are still some time away. The technical challenges are significant and public acceptance is probably the biggest obstacle to overcome. The idea of an intermediate step where a driver sets an automated mode on the freeway while taking a nap in the sleeper cab seems more attainable, however even this is still many years away. Experts feel that Level 5 where no driver is present in the vehicle will happen eventually but they will always be a small percentage of the trucks on the road. Trucking companies that fully embrace all of the available technology will still need human drivers to handle more complex tasks such as urban driving and regional routes.