Hauling Industry News

Analysts: Trucking Ripe With Opportunities for Autonomous Technology

By Pulltarps Mfg | April 17, 2020

Story by Jerry Hirsch | Contributing Writer

Many headlines about autonomous driving focus on the consumer auto market, but the commercial and heavy-duty truck segment are where self-driving technology will make its quickest penetration — and strongest business case — transport industry analysts and executives said.

“Trucking applications will be one of the first places where we will see this tech come to market,” said Chris Urmson, who led the Google self-driving car team and is now CEO of Aurora, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based self-driving technology company.

It’s a matter of economics, he said.

Aurora is developing a fully autonomous system that works in passenger cars and trucks, but he noted that such systems could add tens of thousands of dollars to a vehicle’s cost.

“That’s not compelling for an individual’s car, but it is of interest for fleet operators because of the efficiencies that can be gained,” Urmson said. “There’s a business case.”

Truck manufacturers are exploring how self-driving semi-tractors could start working in commercial applications sooner than people expect, said Darren Gosbee, Navistar’s vice president of advanced engineering. In particular, companies are exploring both hub-to-hub and dock-to-dock operations.

“In hub-to-hub, a driver would set the vehicle up, connect the trailer, do an inspection and then get out. The truck would get on the on-ramp and then the highway and then the offramp and come to a stop. A driver would take it to the dock,” Gosbee said. Dock-to-dock is intended as fully autonomous transport.