Yes, the very first self-driving semi is on the road for its test runs in Nevada. In May 2015, Freightliner announced that it has been given license to test out its autonomously driving tractor-trailer, the Freightliner Inspiration on highways only. According to Daimler, who owns Mercedes-Benz, this advanced version of the Daimler 18-wheeler will make over-the-road hauls safer and cheaper.
With radar sensors, parallel parking assist functions, and braking systems that engage to avoid accidents in everyday commuter vehicles, it was in the cards for these advancements to start making their way into the trucking industry. In recent years, the largest names in freight have begun outfitting their vehicles with safety features such as lane control and automatic braking. Freightliner states that the technology on their autonomous truck is designed for safety, too. It will stay in its lane and avoid hitting cars ahead with no assistance from the driver. In addition, they believe trucks like this could help reduce driver fatigue, allowing them to complete paperwork while the truck is cruising down the highway.
Does this mean the professional driver is obsolete? Not necessarily. According to Freightliner, there will always be a licensed truck driver in the driver’s seat. They will monitor the vehicle through the use of an iPad and will take control as the truck leaves the highway and enters suburban driving areas. However, the technology exists for the tractor-trailer to pull off the highway, stop and wait for a professional driver to arrive before entering a bustling city. In addition, the American Trucking Association has weighed in stating, “From an industry standpoint, it is going to be a question of cost versus benefit.” This advanced technology will certainly add to the cost of the rig and a professional driver will still be required.
So if the technology is there and a company can afford the advancements, can we start expecting to pass these autonomous tractor-trailers on the highway? Experts believe it will be at least a decade. According to Freightliner, millions of miles on varying conditions have to be recorded before it will be prepared to release this technology to any customer in any capacity.
Of course areas of concern have been expressed, everything from state laws to a driver’s intuition. Laws vary from state-to-state could prevent these tractor-trailers from being true “Interstate Trucks.” Even the driver’s use of an iPad while the rig is in motion could break the law in some states. Needless to say, not everyone is sold on the idea of self-driving cars, especially self-driving big rigs. Scott Grenerth of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), says he would be nervous to hand over the control of an 80,000-pound vehicle to cameras and sensors. With his years of driving experience, he questions the ability for sensors and cameras to predict what is going to happen on the road ahead, requiring foresight and intuition that are difficult to program.
So the question becomes when your industry becomes automated, will your business follow suit? For American Trailer & Storage (AT&S), our associates are our number one asset and our drivers are the face of our company. Our drivers have years of experience and take pride in being accountable to themselves, their company and the customers they serve. Since 2007, AT&S trucks have driven more than a million miles and we aren’t slowing down anytime soon.
Since 1994, AT&S has been meeting the transportation and storage equipment needs of customers in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Southern Illinois; as well as throughout the Midwest. AT&S offers semi-trailers, storage containers, portable storage units and can customize a storage container to meet your unique storage requirements. Whatever your storage need–short term, long term, standard, or custom, we can help.
For more information, contact an AT&S Sales Associate at (844) 846-8936 or visit us online to request a quote.