2017 brought us Tesla’s all-electric truck, Uber Freight and further advances in Driverless Automated Trucks
Technology is changing the face of trucking – so what’s next and are we ready?
Technology has disrupted nearly every industry in the economy today, and for the trucking industry it would seem that our turn could be just around the corner.
2017 saw the hyped launch of the Tesla Semi, an all-electric, semi-autonomous truck with a range of over 500 miles per charge, Uber launching its Uber Freight App, designed to cut out the middleman freight broker, and the completion of the first automated driven trucks making deliveries (albeit only for ‘show’ purposes). And whilst only one of these is actually active and available in the market place, Uber Freight, the signs are clear that the future is nearly upon us.
So what does the future of trucking look like?
- Fuel: Whilst Tesla stole the spotlight with its electric Semi, other manufacturers have launched prototype Hydrogen Fuel Cell trucks, combined Compressed Natural Gas – Electric Hybrid trucks and the long talked about Bio-diesel engines, all with a view to improving fuel efficiency, reducing carbon emissions and reducing fuel costs.
- Automation: Self-driving trucks would seem to be the subject of futuristic sci-fi movies, but with no fewer than 60 startups in the USA focused on the self-driving market it seems that the future could be with us sooner than we think. From Automated Truck ‘Platooning’; groups of trucks travelling together, linked by software that regulates their speed, following distance, braking etc to take advantage of slip streaming and other energy saving benefits, whilst freeing up the drivers time to spend on other work; to trucks that are fully automated and travelling point to point with no driver required in the cab at all; these developments look likely to disrupt the marketplace.
- Big Data: Love it or hate it, the term Big Data is impacting on the trucking industry and Uber Freight is just the start of it. Data will revolutionise the loading and unloading of trucks, enable greater efficiency and payload to be achieved through better logistical handling of loads to and from locations (apparently computers are better at logistics than humans?), reduce free space and empty trailers travelling the country (think productivity gains!) and ultimately feed into the development of the automation curve outlined earlier.
All in all, the future of trucking will change and develop. How big these changes are and how fast they impact the industry is anyone’s guess, yet the future is coming and in some cases it is here already.
Many questions still remain as to how these changes will impact on the industry and opinions vary from the widely optimistic, “Think changes on the scale of the development of the Steam Engine in 1810, or the first mass produced motorcar of 1908”, to the more circumspect “automation will never do away with the driver, but it may make them a better and more efficient driver”, but one thing is sure, the future is coming!
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