Friday, March 10, 2017

What About Trucks?

While the future for completely autonomous cars looks bleak, surprisingly enough the same is not so for autonomous trucks. And the reasons are interesting. First of all, there would be no need to convince anyone to ride in one, since a truck is not a passenger vehicle. Secondly, long haul trucks spend almost all their time on highways, where autonomous technology makes the most sense. Of course, once a truck enters a heavily populated urban area even the most advanced technology won't do the job, for the same reasons self-driving cars won't be reliable in such an environment. However: the difference is that trucks are run by trucking companies, not individuals, and such companies have resources most individuals lack.

As I see it, the truck of the future will have remote-control functionality, enabling it to be driven, when necessary, by someone sitting in an office somewhere -- anywhere in the world, actually. While on the highway it will be guided by it's sophisticated AI technology, but once off the highway, the remote guidance system will take over. And if the vehicle encounters any problem while on the highway, control can also be shifted to some guy or gal sitting in front of a monitor in Wilmington, Pittsburgh, Hong Kong, Katmandu, wherever. Think of the way drone aircraft are controlled, something like that.

Most self-driving trucks being tested today look like ordinary trucks with some cameras and sensors tacked on. But the truck of the future won't have any need for a cab, so some very interesting designs could emerge. I found some on the Internet, but the blog software won't let me display them. But if you click here you'll see an especially interesting example. A bit scary, no?

Actually, as I learned just now, the future seems to have already caught up with me. Check out this article from, Feb. 2017:
The company equips trucks with a system that uses computers, radar and software to drive without a human at the controls on highways and then via remote-controlled on-board robots on local roads. Such a system would allow truckers to stay close to home, essentially working shifts piloting trucks from various driver centers nationwide while still earning the wages of a long-haul driver. 
Nice to learn I'm not the only one with a nose for the future.

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