The Future of Truck Technologies May Very Well Include Autonomous Systems – I’d Bet On It

We all know that Google has an autonomous car program, automobiles that drive themselves, and they are testing it out in Nevada, on the actual highways – the technology has come this far. Mostly thanks to DARPA and their DARPA Challenge and DARPA Grand Challenge. Our automobiles are getting smarter, we know this because some cars now parallel park themselves, others have features that help prevent us running over pedestrians or making an unsafe lane-change.

It doesn’t take much of an imagination to realize that 30,000 automobile deaths a year are unacceptable, or that there are times when we know we shouldn’t be driving. For instance, after becoming too tired, or after having a drink or two. Older drivers and there are more and more of us every day also pose some safety challenges as reflexes slow, and hand and eye coordination begins to fail us. A self-driving car could sure come in handy in those cases.

Now then, what will the first self-driving vehicles be used for? Well, the military is already using this technology for UGVs (unmanned ground vehicles), soon corporations, airports, infrastructure will use them for robotic sentinels. The military also has its sights on logistic uses, ground equipment for UAVs, and other such things such as large robotically driven autonomous convoys. Hmm, now that has some free-market applications, doesn’t it? Sure it does, let’s talk,

There was an intriguing article in Strategy + Business in the Summer 2013 Issue that was titled; “The Next Autonomous Car Is a Truck,” by Peter Conway which noted “If trucks can be retrofitted as autonomous vehicles, the current national fleet would be 30% over capacity because of efficiency gains.” Now then, having studied transportation theory and all the future truck technologies out there now available and/or will be available within the next decade, I guess that figure sounds like a pretty solid ballpark guess. Although, I have not read the particular research paper which postulates that 30% number – it sounds about right to me.

Back in 2005 our Think Tank looked into all this, and the possible applications for routine type driving. How about delivering the mail to the same mailboxes on the same route every single day at the same time – a perfect application, same with terminal to terminal cross-country truck driving and convoys without drivers could drive close together saving more fuel driving in the same slipstream, much like the NASCAR drivers or Tour de France riders do. Please consider all this and think on it.

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