While Minnesota highways are filled with the usual assortment of sports cars, SUVs, and delivery trucks, there’s a new type of vehicle sharing the roads in Nevada: the world’s first self-driving semi-truck. Engineers have been developing self-driving cars for years, and it makes sense a self-driving big rig might be next. These advances in technology could instigate major changes for trucking companies like Bay & Bay Transportation and impact those who make their careers as long-haul truck drivers.
The term “self-driving” is a bit misleading. The self-driving semi, known as the “Freightliner Inspiration Truck,” is classified as a level 3 autonomous vehicle. With this classification, the truck still requires a driver present who must take full control to pass other vehicles, exit the highway, drive on local roads, and pull up to loading docks. For it to be truly self-driving, it would be classified as level 4 and able to perform all driving actions and monitor road conditions at all times whether the cab was occupied or not. The Freightliner Inspiration Truck basically takes advantage of many of the technologies already available in personal cars such as collision avoidance, speed control, and lane stability, and is still only in its experimental stages.
Of course, as with any new technology, the Freightliner Inspiration Truck has its advocates and opponents. The pro-driverless technology crowd says that embracing the self-driving semi will:
- Reduce accidents caused by human error
- Improve fuel consumption by allowing a chain of semis to take advantage of aerodynamics from the lead truck
- Alleviate driver fatigue by allowing the sensors to maintain optimal speed, distance between cars, and lane location
- Increase driver productivity by allowing them to review notes or use an iPad to plan their next route
On the opposite side, those who are against relying on self-driving technology have just as many valid concerns regarding:
- Safety for driver and others on the road if the technology malfunctions or doesn’t react quickly enough to changing conditions
- Cost for trucking companies to install the technology in addition to paying drivers
- Lawsuit responsibility in the event of an accident
- Driving areas; only a handful of states allow self-driving vehicles on the road
Either way, it’s unclear how self-driving technology will be integrated into the transportation industry since the Freightliner Inspiration Truck is still only in the experimental stages. But, for the near future at least, Bay & Bay Transportation is keeping drivers in full control of their semis on long-haul deliveries. If you are interested in furthering your career as a long-haul truck driver, contact us today!