Imagine driving down a road and looking into the window of a truck and seeing no driver. That is starting to become the reality of the trucking industry! The invention of autonomous trucks are becoming more popular as the technology improves. The use of radar and cameras on trucks are helping the truck to be more safe, but there is still a long road ahead.
There are fewer and fewer drivers pursuing a career in trucking every year. The FMCSA says that by 2024, there could be 175,000 less truck drivers on the road. For this reason, trucking professionals and industry leaders are trying to get ahead by technology. Some trucking companies are using radar technology, while others are using cameras as their primary safety control and radar as backup.
The technology already exists for trucks to drive on highways but when it comes to urban areas, there are more issues because of pedestrians, right-of-ways, traffic lights, stop signs, etc. This is tougher to program because there are so many unknowns and it can be very dangerous for pedestrians crossing the street. The truck must also understand all rules of the road and be as alert as a real truck driver before it can become more popular.
As of October 2017, there have been autonomous trucks delivering for FrigidAire. They are currently making 650 mile trips from Texas to California only, but are looking to increase the number of places that they drive and the distance that they drive. FrigidAire uses companies that use radar technology.
Companies such as TuSimple use cameras to pinpoint where on the road they are, and where there are other vehicles. They equip the truck with about 10 cameras and use radar as backup. These cameras can detect danger 300 meters which provides the truck plenty of time to stop in case of an emergency.
While both of those technologies still use a human to override control if needed, the real future of the industry is eliminating the human element, and that is what Uber is aiming to do with their technological strides. Currently, their trucks drive a distance on the highway, but as soon as the truck exits the highway, a driver enters the truck to in to take it the rest of the way.
The trucking industry, regulated by the FMCSA, always tries to keep up with the newest technology to keep their truckers and other people on the roads safe. Autonomous trucks are the newest technology in the industry and can help solve the issue of a declining number of truck drivers. Technologies such as radar technology and cameras on trucks will eventually be able to eliminate the need for trucker drivers behind the wheel.