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Driverless Trucks? Watch Out

Monday, November 05, 2018By Richard Alexander

Automated technology is poised to take over the passenger motor vehicle industry. Many people wonder whether driverless technology will transform the trucking industry as well. A new report shows that only a small number of trucking jobs will be lost as a result of new technological applications. Nevertheless, the industry is poised to change in several other ways once these technologies become commonplace.

According to a report by Michigan State University and Texas A&M Transportation, automated vehicles will not be widely used until the late 2020s. Enabling the technology to improve over the next decade or so is probably good news in light of a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) that raises questions about the auto industry’s preparedness to roll out systems designed to assume driver functions. Driver assistance systems may not have the necessary capability or safety controls necessary at this stage. According to the IIHS, systems like adaptive cruise control and active lane-keeping produced varied results under testing conditions that mimicked normal driving conditions. The study concluded that currently these technologies are not adequate alternatives for human drivers.

The study found that the most immediate impact of the implementation of driverless technology will be a decline in driving jobs with passengers as customers, such as cab drivers. But the trucking industry might not feel the impact quite so readily. The industry is already dealing with worker shortages and is not anxious to replace the workers it currently employs. Moreover, industry experts believe that new technologies are likely to assist drivers rather than displace them. This may result in changes in workforce functions and industry demands. For example, technology improvements could open up new jobs in other areas of trucking including engineering, monitoring, and security. In particular, employment opportunities in training will be in high demand as driverless technology becomes standard in trucks.

For now, the trucking industry is looking forward to the safety improvements that driverless technology promises to deliver. In the meantime, it has pledged to conduct research and implement programs to develop a better understanding of how technology should be implemented over the long term.

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