General Question

flo's avatar

Is truck driving going to be obsolete because of "driverless trucks"?

Asked by flo (12974points) September 22nd, 2016

This is not true right? “When a computer takes over the driving responsibilities, drivers can use that time to do other things, like catch up on reading or chat with passengers, all without having to worry too much about road safety.” That’s number 6 on the pro side

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

39 Answers

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Not really they would still want a person with the load in case of a breakdown.
And there will still be breakdowns.

zenvelo's avatar

As automation expands into vehicles, there will be job displacement, not only with delivery trucks but also taxis and buses.

ragingloli's avatar

It might increase demand for mechanical/IT hybrid engineers as quick response units.
But an autopiloted lorry has all sorts of advantages.
no stopping for rest or sleep, no stopping for shits and pisses, less accidents, less traffic violations, no issues with drivers not getting enough sleep, and much, much less prostitutes murdered with axes.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

It will depend on the sort of ‘truck driving’. I would anticipate there will be job losses. Especially where the route is very routine and doesn’t involve significant unloading. They could just have someone who moves the parcel from the truck to the receiver and is there to take over in an emergency situation.

I can’t see long-haul work being driverless for a long time to come here. Our roads aren’t set up for driverless trucks. If in the future they could have a designated lane, then I could quite see this happening. I imagine it would work a bit like a train driver. And I agree with @ragingloli, there are a lot of advantages to this idea.

Zaku's avatar

If driverless cars are Death On Wheels, then driverless semi drucks will be Megadeath On Wheels!

If they do that, I can’t wait till a computer virus infects the entire fleet with the 9/11/2031 simultaneous mega-truck pandemonium virus. That’s a CGI movie that could be entertaining. If every semi went on a rampage at the same time, not only would there be a lot of damage, but the whole USA would be almost out of supply for a very long time.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar


As @SQUEEKY2 says, there will be a need for intervention when things go wrong. But maybe the person on the truck will be more like the guy in the caboose, not the driver up front. A janitor.

@Earthbound_Misfit – I think the opposite – long-haul will be the best use of autonomous trucks and human drivers will be most useful for the last mile, making deliveries and shaking hands.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

You know no matter how much technology advances I can’t see it getting to a place where it would be able to send a driverless transport through the mountains in the middle of winter.
I can’t see how these sensors would work with a snow covered highway and the truck covered in dirt,salt, and ice.
Yeah theres safety at it’s finest.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

@SQUEEKY2 The autonomous trucks can sit idle when conditions are bad. Or an autonomous snowplow can lead a convoy at low speed.

Trucks moving 24/7 at 25mph can move a lot farther than trucks 70 hours per week at 55mph.

Interstates are not complicated. The long haul is the easiest problem. It sucks for your job prospects, but I think it’s inevitable.

I think you should be preparing for alternatives. Like extra heavy and extra wide loads.

Or moving to “last mile” delivery, from Amazon & Fed Ex. Or maybe the opposite, backbone delivery FOR Amazon & Fed Ex.

Change is coming.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Yeah, but I will be retiring in 13years and I can’t see it taking over the industry in that time.
So for now I think I am pretty safe.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@Call_Me_Jay, but it will depend on the situation in individual countries. I think our freeways would have at most four lanes, most have less, even major highways. I do agree in the long-term, with the right transport infrastructure, it will happen. I’m fine with the idea.

In terms of local deliveries, I was thinking of things like Australia Post/the GPO. Here, they tend to have small vans driving around set areas delivering parcels. That could be automated so the driver isn’t driving, he’s delivering. He doesn’t have to keep getting in the cab, he just works from the back of the van, grabbing a parcel, dropping it at the house, back in the back of the van and off again.

kritiper's avatar

I believe in time this will be true but any and all commuting/delivery/cargo will be handled by some form of computerized rail system.

citizenearth's avatar

I don’t think so. Heavy equipment or machinery still needs human to operate it.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

That could be automated so the driver isn’t driving, he’s delivering. He doesn’t have to keep getting in the cab, he just works from the back of the van, grabbing a parcel, dropping it at the house, back in the back of the van and off again.

That sounds likely. We have Amazon same-day delivery here in town. And the Fed Ex and UPS drivers were hustling before that. USPS is delivering packages on Sundays for Amazon.

I can see them riding cargo chariots where the vehicle does the driving.

Renzycrock's avatar

Though the track drives are too fast to reach the target. Even they are drunk. So there is a big chances of happening accident. Actually they would like to reach the destination too early. This is the main reason of accident.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Truck drivers do much more than just driving the truck. They inspect it, they inpsec the load, they jockey for position at teh loading and unloading dock, they work with the unloaders (lumpers).
But they can only drive a limited number of hours. If you need a load shipped quickly you can specify and pay for 2 drivers so they don’t need to stop.
I can picture two big changes that could be coming down the ‘pike.
1) The autonomous truck could be considered a second driver during highway driving segments the load can be delivered quicker with only one driver.
2) Autonomous trucks will do the driving between highway exits and drivers will take them to and from the last mile. Drivers will no longer have a need to leave their home towns. They will work the loads coming and going in their area handling multiple loads per day.

In the latter case Uber or some company like it would do the scheduling. They would be large enough to hold the bond, insurance and handle finances.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

One thing that this technology is going to have to prove to the industry that it is better cost effective to use an autonomous truck over a driver controlled one.

Right now they are stupid expensive, and still require a driver to take over at a moments notice, won’t work on snow covered highways ,won’t pass slower moving vehicles, lots and I mean LOTS of bugs to iron out before you see them a as a main truck on the highway.( not saying that day won’t come but it is still a long way off)
What I really want to see is how these wonder trucks work after a few years with thousands upon thousands of kilometres on them, I personally think the maintenance costs of these autonomous trucks will be a huge hindrance of them becoming the truck we will see on our North American highways. Anytime soon that is.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
BellaB's avatar

It’s coming. Actuaries have been working on risk factors and rates for several years already.

It won’t take over the entire industry in the near future but most of us will (I believe) live to see at least the early days of the changes.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

AS I said , not saying the day won’t come, it just won’t be in the very near future.
They still have to get the cost factor down, and I would like to see what the expected life of these trucks are going to be, because they aint going to come cheap.

BellaB's avatar

There won’t be much of a price differential. The hardware/software costs are a miniscule portion of the cost of a tractor unit. Not much will change with tractors or trailers. Word is, that retrofitting won’t be too complicated, but of course they won’t know 100% til they really get further into development/live testing.

Once the first generation goes live, the cost factor will likely disappear completely. And first generation, there will be a saving in the number of drivers required. More safety guys and techies will need to be on staff. I suspect dispatch roles will see a big change.

Darth_Algar's avatar

An 25,000 lb rig careening down the highway at 80/mph with no driver at the wheel? What could possibly go wrong?

ragingloli's avatar

Better than a perpetually overworked, sleepless, drunkard at the wheel, who is too busy reading his wanking magazines to concentrate on the road.

Darth_Algar's avatar


Clearly an ether/or scenario.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

The article mainly dealt with vehicles, when it comes to trucks there are various sizes of commercial trucks, from your rather small box van, to those the size of UPS trucks all the way up to the tractor trailer rigs. Even if you had driverless trucks, you would not eliminate those who load and unload, as it would still need to be done, and unless they develop robots for that, humans will still be needed. It would still be a long, long time before every truck (or enough of them) are on the road to make eliminating the driver a viable option.

BellaB's avatar

Automated loading docks go back decades. Obviously not every facility has them, but they’re out there. They have their own problems but speed and safety are definitely their upsides.

flo's avatar

Look at this regarding perfecting things tech.
Some of you are tooooo oprimistic.
Driverless or no,....

And look at the con side, in the link I posted in this OP. Number 9 and 15 for example.

sophiechan's avatar

I have no doubt that in the long run it will become obsolete. Not immediately though, i think for a while the automation will only work on motorways with the human driver having to take over once it enters towns, has to maneuver for loading/unloading etc.

kritiper's avatar

They would never be able to eliminate truck drivers while idiot drivers still operate other vehicles.

BellaB's avatar

—Anheuser-Busch says it has completed the world’s first commercial shipment by self-driving truck, sending a beer-filled tractor-trailer on a journey of more than 120 miles ,almost 200 kilometres ,through Colorado.

The company says it teamed with self-driving truck maker, Otto, and the state of Colorado for the feat. The trailer, loaded with Budweiser beer, began the self-driving trip at a weigh station in Fort Collins, Colorado, and ran along Interstate 25 through Denver before wrapping up in Colorado Springs.

The company says a professional truck driver was on board for the entire route and monitored the trip from the cab’s sleeper berth. It didn’t say when the shipment took place.

Anheuser-Busch says it hopes to see self-driving technology widely deployed—

flo's avatar

So, it’s a myth that self driving cars will eliminate drivers.

zenvelo's avatar

@flo nope, it is not a myth. This was a test, done with the State, so they can see how well driverless trucks work.

The driver was in the sleeper berth. That’s pretty far from the controls.

flo's avatar

@zenvelo But that means nothing, just like Trump is a candidate for presidency is a doesn’t mean it a sensible thing. As someone sarcastically said somewhere above “What can possibley go wrong?”

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

30,000 people die in traffic accidents in the US every year, almost entirely due to human error.

Autonomous vehicles don’t feel a “need” to run red lights, or speed, or tailgate, or avenge themselves if at perceived disrespect from other drivers.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

They will still need a person inside in case of a breakdown,or take over when the computer craps out.

zenvelo's avatar

@SQUEEKY2 nope, as much as current drivers think that, they won’t. The computer on board is in constant communication with headquarters monitoring its progress, one little warning light from the computer and home office knows it and can plan for its repair/maintenance much faster than a driver reporting at the end of his haul.

flo's avatar

@Call_Me_Jay Okay but the solution is not have the “driver” (or is it ” chaperone” that read somewhere) in the sleeper berth. If the “driver” or the “chaperone” is going to be “pretty far from the controls” as @zenvelo wrote what is the point? Is it comedy or what?

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Uh @zenvelo I know you really want the driver out of the way, but when it craps out 300 miles from the nearest town with a half million dollar pay load on board they will want someone to guard it till help gets there.
Plus it might be something a stupid human can fix to get the truck underway again.
Lately my truck is three years old with over 800,000ks and been having sensor after wonderful sensor crap out.

zenvelo's avatar

The future is closer than expected. Testing in Ohio.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther