The Future of Trucking 6 Mind-Bending Future Helicopters & Aircrafts 4 months ago   06:55

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Imagining the future of the vast trucking industry that will become autonomous in the coming years.
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The semi-truck. Our modern lives are completely dependent on them. Look around you. Every object you see probably traveled on at least one big rig. Here in America, truckers make up 2% of the workforce. But with multiple game-changing technologies converging simultaneously — and the relentlessness of the hyper-competitive global marketplace — the industry will be revolutionized within the next two decades.

This is an examination of the future of trucking.

Before we get into the technology that will turn it all upside-down, we must first understand the way this extremely fragmented industry works now. To the numbers! There are about 3 million drivers for 2.5 million trucks in the US. Those trucks are owned by 532,000 carrier companies, but 90% of these fleets have fewer than six trucks—and half of all carriers are single individuals who own and operate their own rig. Then you have the middlemen, the freight brokers. These 13,000 companies play matchmaker between the manufacturers and wholesalers (who are trying to get their goods to market) and the retailers (who make the final sale to the consumer).

Because this industry is so splintered, there aren’t universal software systems tying it all together. In fact, 67% of shippers don’t use software at all and rely solely on paper records—in 2017!

This creates tremendous inefficiency. When every piece of information has to be communicated through human interactions, drivers are frequently forced to wait hours to book or pick-up a load. And sometimes they just don’t, an estimated 20% of trucks on the road are empty.

To solve these problems, investors are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on startups competing to develop the silver bullet, a software layer that can be used by every segment of the industry.

Another area ripe for modernization is how trucks are powered. Today, medium and heavy duty trucks account for 6% of the greenhouse gas emissions produced in America.

To their credit, companies like Walmart are looking to transition to fleets powered by cleaner natural gas, the bridge fuel America has embraced to transition to renewables.

That’s where Tesla comes in. Elon Musk, CEO of the electric car manufacturer, plans to unveil an electric-powered semi-truck in the next six months.

Battery range will be the biggest obstacle to the widespread adoption of electric trucks as Tesla’s pack will probably only have a 200-300 mile range. The other challenge will be having enough charging stations — and enough power available at each station — to support fleets of Tesla trucks.

The Nikola One attempts to overcome these limitations. This gorgeous, hydrogen fuel cell truck will have a range up to 1,200 miles. The young company plans to begin leasing their trucks by 2020 for about $6,000 a month — including the cost of fuel — but it will first need to build a network of about 400 charging stations throughout the country.

Cutting the emissions of semi-trucks is great for the environment, but the real cost-saving opportunity lies in cutting out the drivers.

It’s been more than a year now since six convoys of semi-autonomous “smart” trucks arrived at the Netherlands port city of Rotterdam after leaving factories from as far away as Sweden and Southern Germany.

That experiment relied on a system called platooning, a semi-autonomous feature allowing trucks to find each other, link up, and draft to cut down on wind drag, saving energy—just like in NASCAR or the Tour de France.

And in October, a self-driving truck completed the first commercial shipment by an autonomous vehicle, delivering a load of Budweiser more than 120 miles across Colorado. A human got the truck on the highway and engaged the autonomous system, then climbed out of the driver’s seat. That truck was made by Otto motors, which was recently acquired by Uber.

And dozens of massive, 240-ton trucks are already being used in Australian mines.

So that’s the near-future we’ll see in the next 10 years: fleets of driverless trucks. Some will be designed to be autonomous, while others will have the system installed later. Many will be electric, and nearly all will be connected to efficient networks that are not slowed down by frequent human input.

Comments 1725 Comments

Suck MyUnit
Autonomous trucks will only be operated by corporate fleets maybe some mega carriers, but like you said 90% of trucks in US are owned by owner operators.. These guys won't give up their income... Try and force them out and the country will come to a halt.... No manufacturing to replace 4 million trucks..
Suck MyUnit
This why I'm milking the money for next few years then getting out of trucking... Pushing drivers out adds to driver shortage
Hoàng Khánh
I like that truck.
James Fleming
The day is fast approaching.Engineering has a very staggered curve .It barely moves than makes huge exponential leaps.You'll still need a guy with a CDL.But you won't need near 3 million of them.
As time goes on they will need fewer and fewer of us.
Until we go the way of the old phone booth. Its how capitalism works.If you can't hire illegals than kill the working class some other way .But this isn't a policy thing ,it's a technology thing.The genie is out of the bottle.You simply cannot find her to shove her back in.I do feel that I'll be the last generation to have been OTR in large numbers.The wealthy will love it.They'll make even more.The ranks of the very poor will substantially increase.This will be a societal calamity like few others.15 to 30 yrs from now the transportation /freight industry will be an extremely unbelievably different galaxy.The day of the guy like me seeing America 20 times over and making a reasonably living will be over.And its not just the drivers.Its truckstops,taco stands, waitresses.........etc.
They're are entire communities across the country that depend on that guy in the truck and all the peripheal stuff that comes with him stopping in their town.Software doesn't need a chrome shop,or a Hooters,or a Longhorns shirt,or a good omelet.
It's gonna tear society up.
But make no mistake.It is coming!Faster than most of us think.
Jim Edward
We are Americans no euro trash . what do all these people think all the battery packs are going after they die. The land fill I don't think the trade-off is worth it
Tomaž Jamšek
When people will start to believe that modern technology bring them poverty they'll start to fight against it and society wil turn back to dark age. Albert Einstein will be right saying: I don't know how we'll fight the 3.W.W. but i'm sure that the 4.W.W. we'll fight with stones.
haha LOL haha
There will be no future work for drivers ? All of us non drivers can find careers why can't you?Are truck drivers really that Unadaptable?
Do autonomous trucks buy good n services??? A.I is taking over
Geani Tsucuneli
I am lucky I am car carrier cost to cost .So my job is going to be there for long time.Door to Door delivery ...good money ..too complicated for Robotics
George R.
Will never happen in the real world only in theses fools fantasy dream life.To many variables in trucking it not point a to b. I would laugh in there face . Its obvious theses morons never were behind the wheel . This idea seems to be promoted while smoking them funny cigarettes. What a stupid idea from a bunch of morons.
Put 3 million out of work.
Got to love the greed of these companies
But that’s ok because it won’t come easy.
m de
What about drivers they loose there jobs to robots that's very bad for humans
ha h
Fml I just got my CDL
Magnus Wettermark
Glad i m dead by then...
Casa Express
yea right. fix the god damn gps that freezes under concrete pathes and tunnels first then i can see this coming.
Terry Loder
The pronunciation of Semi truck was sad. Who doesn't know how to pronounce it? Well, this guy sure doesn't
Matthew Fischer
What's ironic is that every part on these terds was shipped by humans
Matthew Fischer
Machines can't save lives do you know how many humans have slid down a mountain with 50 ft of chrome and steel and and saved little old grandma
shawn calay
Peterbilt had tail tech since 1987...11 trucks tag behind a driver truck...ethan munk copies the ideah and gets all still waiting for my flying car from waiting for teleportation I was told would happen by 2000 in many dreamers out here making this stuff....railways supposed to be unmanned by 1967....airlines by 1980s....still waiting.....
Joshua S.
So truckers will be fired, companies like Peterbilt will go away, so more job loss, truck stops will be empty, resulting in restaurants that depend on income from trucker customers to get money will go. And a machine going unmanned cross country? What about hacking, or accidents. I'll pass
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