The Future of Trucking 6 Mind-Bending Future Helicopters & Aircrafts 9 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

Good Ol' Boi
What does he even mean. "A decade is enough time to learn a new career." Like what. . . . So just basically: "Lose your job and find another to save companies money till the next job ALSO gets taken....
New skills for a new career? We're careening inevitably toward a day when there will be no jobs for anyone who lacks an advanced degree.
There will never be a total longhaul driverless truck. As long as man is making the products there will always be flaws built into the systems. Human beings are not perfect and can not make a perfect product that will never break down so there will always be a need for at the least backup driver.
Chris Williment
When they're replaced people from the transport industry. Where will it end. People say learn a new career. But with the automation this will get harder and harder. Hopefully and most likely, one day it will affect the very people that are coming up with these ideas. Then I'll be happy to see living on the streets with the rest of us. Big companies just don't want to pay wages that the billion dollar reason. Don't say safety that's a total load of crap. They just want more money for themselves.
Shawn Readman
Anyone who has ever driven a truck knows that the GPS goes out etc. I'd like to see these trucks adapt to that.
Lol. First off until there is full AI that acts and and react like a human. The trucks will still have a human operator in the truck. I don't see truck driving jobs going anywhere for a long time. They will just be geaky truck drivers lol
John Jason
Long haul across interstate will be simple to replace with automation. You can kiss the idea good bye in the city. Far too many variables.
That would be so cool and much better. Driverless trucks would be 100% alert and follow rules. It is not unmanned because there will be certain situations where a person will be needed such as a breakdown, refuel, shipping recording, etc. A few of those can be automated too in the future but I find it much better in the workers life to be more capable to be more technical and less labor of the road. Gives time to be more productive.
Paul Sharp
Great ideals. I know trucking is a hard life.
Sam Fisher
So in other words put 3 million people out of work right?
Liberty Me
No rest, no sleep, no food, no water, no COMPLAINTS. 170 billions a year savings. And what about the people who work at truck stops, hostels, restaurants? I'm sad
I'm not crazy about sharing the road with self driving hydrogen bombs that can be hacked.
Robert McCracken
The first time a system shorts out or a sensor failure kills some family will set this technology back at least 20 years.
Brent Piontek
I don't see that happening 100% I think it's totally stupid and I think the battery powered semi's will stand the real cold weather diesel trucks are good enough. I think that the word Driverless just sounds stupid how about we bring the older trucks back to life.
Space Cowboy 45
Reefer tanks must be refueled, tandems must be shifted, if need be ice chains need to be put on, not to mention the CPU May freeze over in below negative conditions. I think this concept is cool, but the moment we have a series of autonomous truck vehicular manslaughters, this will get recalled ASAP. In a perfect world, this would work, but we’re far from that.
Cute Trucker80
I’ve been trucking since 2002 and I will tell you myself this is the dumbest idea ever in trucking. If I ever see a driverless truck approaching me or riding beside me best believe I’m pulling the hell over. I don’t trust computerized systems and damn sure won’t trust a computerized driverless truck lol gtfoh
wayne northam
I don't really see that happening, you cannot totally replace a driver. Look at the air line industry, planes have been equipped with auto pilot for years, they have computerized flight control, instrument landing systems, theoretically they can depart, fly a pre programmed route and land with no pilot interaction. But have you seen a pilot less airliner yet.? Drivers will always be needed. Autonomy should simply reduce the fatigue of a driver allowing him to relax on long boring highway sections. But still be on hand to cope with problems, fueling, checking in, opening trailers backing on to docks etc. And of course driving when in situations that autonomy is simply not practicle.
Virian Bouze
Let me see how well they can haul "Lumber" or Steel around some of those back roads???
If the people don't consume due to no jobs. Who's going to purchase the PRODUCTS!
What’s the point in driving if it’s just going to be self Control on its own? That’s no point for a CDL A class
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