Search

The Future of Freight Transportation With Autonomous Trucks

The Future of Freight Transportation With Autonomous Trucks

The News: Autonomous trucks could help freight companies meet increased demand amid a nationwide driver shortage, while lowering costs, reducing fuel consumption, and boosting safety. However, before autonomous trucks can take over the highways, they will need to get full regulatory approval. The US Department of Transportation set the framework for the regulatory environment for driverless cars and trucks with its AV 4.0 plan in 2019. Read more on the Investor’s Business Daily website.

The Future of Freight Transportation With Autonomous Trucks

Analyst Take: With freight companies facing increased demand and a nationwide driver shortage, autonomous trucks could meet those challenges while lowering costs, reducing fuel consumption, and boosting safety. However, before autonomous trucks can take over the highways, they will need to get full regulatory approval. The US Department of Transportation set the framework for the regulatory environment for driverless cars and trucks with its AV 4.0 plan in 2019. Meanwhile, two dozen states currently allow commercial deployment of intrastate autonomous trucks, and in some locations, they are on the road. In addition, most states allow testing of self-driving trucks that have a human backup driver on board. For interstate travel, however, autonomous trucks still need clearance from the federal government. Autonomous trucks can still get into accidents, as happened to a Waymo tractor-trailer that was forced off the road in May 2022.

It is interesting to note that Dallas has become the hub of autonomous truck testing and development, thanks to its vital freight corridors, business-friendly policies, and generally favorable weather. According to Ossa Fisher, president of Pittsburgh-based Aurora Innovation, says “it’s hard to envision a place that would be better to launch autonomous trucks.” Industry officials say Texas is more proactive than other states that allow autonomous vehicle testing and deployment. Most autonomous truck companies are testing their rigs with real customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, using backup safety drivers until the technology is ready to go completely self-driving.

Autonomous Truck Companies in Texas

  • Aurora has raised $853 million ahead of its planned driverless launch by late 2024. It is hauling more than 50 loads a week to Houston and El Paso for pilot customers such as FedEx, Schneider, Werner Enterprises, Uber Freight, and Hirschbach.
  • Kodiak Robotics’ semitrucks are currently doing commercial runs for clients across Texas, including hauling IKEA furniture 7 days a week between a distribution center in Baytown and an IKEA store in Frisco.
  • Gatik is currently running smaller autonomous box trucks across the region, delivering goods for companies such as Kroger, Sam’s Club, and Pitney Bowes.
  • Torc Robotics is an independent subsidiary of Daimler Truck and currently does most of its testing in New Mexico but has a growing presence in Texas.

How Autonomous Trucks Would Operate

Autonomous trucks would operate mostly “hub-to-hub” in tandem with local drivers. The autonomous trucks would use a variety of sensors, including long-distance lidar, cameras, and radar, and would drive on the highway, often sticking to the right lane, for hundreds of miles. When they approach their destination, they would be trained to exit the highway and navigate a short distance on surface streets to arrive at the hub. Once arriving at the hub, the automated truck would be switched to a conventional truck operated by a local driver who would deliver it to its final destination.

Autonomous Truck Challenges

The autonomous truck industry faces several challenges. One hurdle for autonomous trucks is likely to come from labor unions concerned about job losses to autonomous technology. In California, the Teamsters union is pushing for a law that would require human truck drivers in the cab of self-driving vehicles as a safety measure. Another challenge is investment capital, which is dwindling due to rising interest rates. Despite these and other potential challenges including federal regulation, autonomous trucks could help logistics companies cope with a shortage of long-haul drivers while lowering costs, reducing fuel consumption, and boosting safety.

Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

Other Insights from The Futurum Group:

Commercial Vehicles to Get a Boost in Autonomous Driving Capabilities in New Plus Luminar Partnership

Waymo’s Strategic Move Into Ride-Hailing With Waymo One

Alphabet Wing and Walmart Partner for Dallas Drone Delivery

Author Information

Clint Wheelock

Clint brings over 20 years of market research and consulting experience, focused on emerging technology markets. He was co-founder and CEO of Dash Network, an integrated research and digital media firm focused on the CX market, which was acquired by The Futurum Group in 2022. He previously founded Tractica with a focus on human interaction with technology, including coverage of AI, user interface technologies, advanced computing, and other emerging sectors. Acquired by Informa Group, Clint served as Chief Research Officer for Informa’s research division, Omdia, with management and content strategy responsibility, formed by the combination of Tractica, Ovum, IHS Markit Technology, and Heavy Reading.
Clint was previously the founder and President of Pike Research, a leading market intelligence firm focused on the global clean technology industry, which was acquired by Navigant Consulting where he was Managing Director of the Navigant Research business.

Prior to Pike Research, Clint was Chief Research Officer at ABI Research, a New York-based industry analyst firm concentrating on the impact of emerging technologies on global consumer and business markets.

Clint holds a Master of Business Administration in Telecommunications Management from the University of Dallas and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Washington & Lee University.

SHARE:

Latest Insights:

The Six Five team discusses NVIDIA announces Mistral NeMo 12B NIM.
The Six Five team discusses Apple using YouTube to train its models.
The Six Five team discusses TSMC Q2FY24 earnings.