A study by leading US university, MIT has found that while vehicle automation stands to be highly disruptive for truck drivers in the US and across the world, there is still a long way to go before our roads are hosting automated trucks and that the role of truck drivers will evolve over time.
Some US experts have warned that the Covid 19 pandemic crisis may accelerate job losses through automation, however truck drivers, who have played an essential role throughout the outbreak in the US and across the globe, may not be among the workers most seriously affected by automated vehicles.
More than three million commercial vehicle drivers work in the United States, which means autonomous technologies could be “highly disruptive” for drivers, Massachusetts Institute of Technology study said, however there is still a long way to go before this may happen, highlighting that developers still have a long way to go before truly driverless trucks can replace humans.
“The variability and complexity of real-world driving conditions require levels of situational adaptability that current technologies have not yet mastered,” the report found.
“A great deal of testing, verification, and proving still needs to occur before Automated Vehicles displace traditional automobiles.”
The study added that many companies are scaling back plans for deploying driverless vehicles, while others are focusing on adding technologies to aid the driver rather than replace him or her.
Brian Fielkow, president of major US trucking and logistics company Jetco Delivery, said that he thought technology would simply cause truck drivers’ roles to evolve.
“Technology is going to bring the driver into the truck, not push them out, rather It will redefine the role of the driver,” Fielkow said.
Fielkow also pointed out that there are still a number of hurdles that need to be cleared before truly driverless trucks will be prevalent on the roads, including revamping the nation’s infrastructure, updating liability protections and allowing the public to become comfortable with the idea.
John Kearney, president and CEO of Advanced Training Systems, said that new technologies could actually improve safety.
Truck drivers are traditionally near the top of the list of the most deadly occupations both in the US and Australia.
Some companies that are working on self-driving trucking technologies include Tesla, Waymo and Uber.
Waymo, which is Google’s self-driving vehicle project, has tested its self-driving class 8 heavy duty trucks in a handful of US states, including California and Texas.
Meanwhile, companies throughout the United States are having a hard time finding qualified drivers. According to data from the American Trucking Associations, the industry was short 60,800 drivers in 2018, a number that could balloon to 160,000 drivers in 2028.
The coronavirus pandemic, however, has removed some capacity from the market throughout recent months and eased pressure on the US driver market.