The push towards driverless technology continues to be in high gear and the trucking industry is in the middle of it. The recent announcement by Daimler, the German manufacturer of several truck brands including Freightliner seems to indicate just that.
A top executive at Daimler recently announced that the company will devote as much as $572 million to develop autonomous trucks. The tech trend is moving in slowly starting with big rigs from Freightliner Cascadia being fitted with driver assist technologies such as adaptive cruise control this year.
So why does Daimler want to build driverless trucks? They simply see it as part of the evolution of the trucking business and want to use the best available tools.
When asked when we can expect driverless trucks to be common on U.S. highways the manufacturer replied that probably within the next 10 years. But adding to that prediction they also believe that this is by no means a certainty and that something like this is difficult to predict accurately.
With so many concerned about how this will impact truck driver jobs Daimler doesn’t see it as having any significant impact. They believe that with 4 million trucks now on North American roads, the addition of 100,000 autonomous trucks will amount to only a small fraction and with the ever-increasing shortage of drivers this will be of little consequence.
Still, Daimler believes that one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is not one of technology but of acceptance. While they are working to insure safety and have promised that they will not launch until this is proven safe there will still be the issue of the public perception. It is not known how long before or if people will ever be comfortable with seeing a driverless big rig on the road beside them. It is certain that any accident no matter how small involving a driverless vehicle will cause a media storm and this will only add to the negativity.
The technology is here, and it seems inevitable that we will soon see it on our highways, but it is society which will dictate its success.