In a short span of time, self-driving trucks have gone from concept to “on the road.” And this technology is going to change how companies, including the food industry, move their freight across the country.
Think self-driving trucks will never happen? The facts say otherwise
For many, it’s hard to imagine edging past a truck on the highway, only to see an empty cabin. But the technology is here and accelerating. Not only are well-backed startups moving the technology along at light speed, but state governments are backing the progress of autonomous vehicles (AVs).
For example, more states are passing laws allowing AV testing on public roadways. As of 2017:
- 32 states have introduced legislation related to AVs
- 12 states have passed legislation related to AVs
Additionally, recent technologies — think PCs, mobile phones and the Internet — became mainstream at a greater rate than previous inventions (refrigerators, radio and television). Currently experts describe the newest technologies, such as AVs, as needing only twenty years to integrate into society.
Easing toward fully autonomous vehicles
So, it will be a while before we see fully automated vehicles on the road. But self-driving technology will be the segue toward that autonomy.
For example, startups have their eye on changing the trucking industry. They believe that self-driving trucks will be safer (by removing driver error) and more efficient (by allowing longer driving times). These benefits are sure to appeal to transportation and logistics companies.
Look, no hands!
In 2016, the Otto group made history when they took their self-driving truck for a trip along Colorado’s Highway 25. With the driver sitting in the sleeper cab, the Volvo rig performed flawlessly.
At this point, the driver still has to perform certain operations, such as entering and exiting the highway. So, until groups like Otto create a self-driving system that adapts to every road condition and variable, truck drivers will take on more of a “pilot” role.
In other words, just as an airline pilot gets the plane off the ground before putting it on auto pilot, so will truck drivers navigate onto the highway. Once the truck is in the flow of traffic, the driver will set the truck into self-driving mode until it’s time to manually takeover.
Converting — not replacing — trucks
Another factor speeding up the implementation of self-driving trucks is the “retrofitting” option. Rather than having to buy a new rig, existing rigs (2013 and later) can be retrofitted with self-driving equipment (currently for around $30,000).
The imminent switch
As long as trucking companies are confident that self-driving technology is safe and more economical, they’re sure to jump on this auto-pilot driving system.
Also, as demand for freight transportation increases and the population of qualified truck drivers decreases, self-driving trucks just seem to make sense.
It’s simply a matter of time.
What are your thoughts on self-driving technology for the food industry? Please let us know in the comments.
At Ingredient Exchange, we work closely with logistics teams to ensure your food ingredients arrive safely and on time. If you’d like to talk about how we can help you buy, sell or recycle your ingredients, please contact us here.
Image credit: Denys Nevozhai