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Self-Driving Freight Trucks: Pros and Cons

Self-Driving Freight Trucks

The automotive industry is growing at an incredible rate, with self-driving cars being one of the major advancements. These are cars of the future, and several years from now, we could have fully automated vehicles that will be driving us instead of driving us driving them. However, in the commercial freight-hauling sector, that future has already arrived; self-driving semi-trucks are now available, and they are performing a wide range of functions.

The Freightliner Inspiration Semi-Truck

Even though engineers are estimating that widespread use of self-driving trucks will start around ten years from now, Nevada roadways have already seen tests on functioning prototypes. In May 2015, Daimler Trucks North America’s subsidiary, Freightliner, introduced the Inspiration – a self-driving commercial truck that was first to receive an autonomous license. Long-haul truckers travel for lots and lots of miles; driverless trucks can be a major boost to revolutionize the commercial trucking industry and eliminate the effects of driving for long hours.

The Freightliner Inspiration truck uses a navigation system called Highway Pilot that allows it to drive itself autonomously on roads. This navigation system consists of sensors and cameras to ensure the truck maintains the right lane. While in the Highway Pilot mode, the truck can also increase speed and brake suitably, freeing the “driver” of any duty to apply human input.

Front Seat Drivers

These vehicles have not become fully autonomous yet, which means drivers are still required. There are some responsibilities that drivers will still be needed to complete, such as driving on surface roads, navigating through interchanges and exits, and other complex ones that require more than driving along a smooth highway. Computer systems also have not been programmed adequately to deal with inclement weather, which means a driver will be responsible for driving through potentially dangerous conditions. And even with the Highway Pilot mode engaged, the driver can override it and resume traditional functions such as steering and braking.

Yes, human drivers are still needed to monitor functioning and performance as well as take control in potentially risky situations. However, the self-driving feature in vehicles such as the Inspiration could significantly reduce fatigue among drivers and eliminate devastating accidents caused by the effects of driving for long hours. It could also eliminate human errors such as distracted driving, a leading cause of accidents.

It’s common to see truck drivers multitasking to deliver cargo on time, which makes them drive dangerously. You can notice them checking the GPS, making phone calls, and updating their logs; all these while still trying to drive safely. Accidents caused by multitasking are preventable with a vehicle like the Inspiration. It allows a driver to complete his other tasks without worrying about keeping the vehicle safe on the road. With the Highway Pilot mode engaged, the driver can detach a smart tablet from the truck’s dashboard and use it to complete various duties such as communication, navigation, logistics, etc.

Trailblazing

What do self-driving semi-trucks mean for us? First, they contribute to better safety and efficiency. Human errors are significantly reduced, which means lessened risky situations on our roadways. While some human errors such as speeding, fatigue, and substance abuse may never be fully eradicated, the Inspiration’s self-driving features and others are a giant step towards reducing these issues’ damaging consequences.

As commercial truck technologies continue to improve, they can prove valuable when it comes to developing self-driving personal cars. Google has already unveiled its first self-driving car, and others such as Uber have made significant steps toward coming up with their own automated systems. Other huge auto companies such as Mercedez Benz, Audi, and General Motors have also immersed themselves in the world of manufacturing vehicles with automated driving.

We have seen tests on self-driving cars that have produced promising results. While there have been several accidents, most of them were rear-end where human drivers hit self-driving cars that had already stopped. As technology advances, self-driving cars will have better safety, fuel efficiency, and allow for better road usage.

The Revenue Status Quo

Government entities are the major losers in the manufacture of these vehicles. They won’t be able to take advantage of a profitable revenue stream that’s currently available. When you eliminate the driver, you (mostly) get rid of his/her responsibility. That means lessened traffic violations and their associated fines.

The hope is that savings from fuel efficiency and reduced vehicle accidents will be channeled back into revenue systems to increase our roads’ safety. Some financial experts are even predicting the introduction of advanced taxation practices to offset this revenue loss.

Even though self-driving technologies are still being developed and refined, these vehicles could soon become a reality and more common on our roads. They have better fuel efficiency, allow for more efficient road usage, and most importantly, safer. Just imagine, one day we will be able to text, make phone calls, and do other things at relatively high speeds without putting other people’s lives in danger!

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