US Versus Europe: Race To First Self-Driving Truck
Autonomous trucks used to be a figment of our imagination, and now countries are racing to fully construct technology to enable complete autonomous fleets. For those who do not know, autonomous trucks are self-driving trucks that would not require a driver. The major competitors are the United States and the entire continent of Europe, each having their own competitive advantages.
In the US, we have a giant trucking market and fewer legal regulations that help with major developmental milestones. Another huge factor is that we have vast amounts of land, such as long strips of barren highways and open country, which can be used for testing and improvement. While in Europe vast amounts of capital have been invested into the R&D, and they have been acquiring companies that are creating the technology behind a self-driving truck.
The trucking industry can see many economical benefits from an autonomous fleet. It would offer large savings in operation costs and would enable new business ventures. According to Stifel Financial Corp, “drivers account for 33% of operating costs…will allow manufacturers to scale down the size and weight of the truck.” By scaling down the size and weight that would allow companies to haul heavier loads and offer higher payouts per trip.
While there are many upsides to the autonomous truck, there are numerous challenges the industry faces to create an efficient and safe technology. The first hurdle is developing regulation and laws that all companies would have to abide by. The regulatory situation in the US is more lenient than in Europe, giving the US a slight advantage in that area. The second hurdle is that roads would require new infrastructure to accommodate for inspections and refueling. The last hurdle is to make the self-driving truck safe. Uber has been developing a self-driving car, and they have been in accidents and have disobeyed traffic laws. This scenario presents huge downfalls to the general public and to companies using autonomous technology.
The benefits of the autonomous trucking industry are great, and will likely be on the roads in the next few years.