Ars Technica is reporting that Waymo, the Google self driving car company, has begun to utilize self driving trucks in Atlanta. These self driving trucks, equipped with a person for safety, are hauling equipment throughout the Atlanta area,
This leads me to ask are we as a public ready for self driving trucks?
We are entering into a possibility that could be both beneficial as well as dangerous. And as Tesla continues their manufacturing of all electric trucks, this will change the trucking industry.
The benefits to self driving trucks are that machines are able to go longer without fatigue than humans. So this will cut down the accidents as a result of tired drivers trying to push longer to earn bonuses and early delivery incentives. This will mean packages and cargo getting to their designations sooner without the deadly accidents.
The other benefit is that machines will (potentially) be able to handle driving in inclement weather better than a human. So this will cut down on the accidents as a result of a driver slipping on a road.
Some of the cons is that you lose the human element that will pull over to help out a stranded driver on the side of the road. Also the driver can make a judgement call that will sacrifice the cargo versus a human life.
The other most important issue is the hit on the labor force. Wages and benefits are one of the biggest expense for a company. Going to self driving trucks will allow the company to increase profits despite leaving more people looking for another profession. This will definitely not sit well with the truck driver unions.
With all the potential benefits that come with self driving vehicles, a person behind the wheel is still the best option. There are a lot of truck stops dependent on the millions of drivers spending money for supplies, meals, hygiene, and fuel. Going to self driving trucks will not only hurt the trucking industry but all the industries (Flying Js, Loves, etc) that employ millions of people to support the truckers.
Advancement in technology causes change in the day to day lives of others. But this advancement we want to help enhance and not harm. So there needs to be a happy medium of adding the benefits of technology, such as the safety benefits, while still having the human element that can choose to help stranded drivers, support the truck stop industries, and make those overriding decisions that put life before cargo.