01 Sep'17

Self-driving lorries: will this be our future?


This week has seen a flurry of news reports about the self-driving lorries set to be trialled on UK motorways next year.


Speaking to The Telegraph, Paul Maynard, the UK Transport Minister, stated:


“Advances such as lorry platooning could benefit businesses through cheaper fuel bills and other road users thanks to lower emissions and less congestion.”


Maynard also emphasises the that the technology will be made sure that it is ‘safe and works well on our roads’.


Driverless lorries are not only being manufactured and test in the UK, but also in other parts of Europe and America. At the moment, it is only semi-automated self-driving trucks (saSDTs) being trialled as the technology develops.

Fully-automated self-driving trucks (faSDTs) are on the horizon though.
Some of the companies that are manufacturing and trialling self-driving lorries include: Daimler, Volvo, Tesla, Volkswagen, Otto, and Google’s Waymo division.


Uber-owned company, Otto, made their first driverless truck delivery of 50,000 cans of Budweiser in October of last year. The journey was on the Interstate 25 120 miles south from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. As it was just on a highway, the driverless truck did not encounter difficult obstacles or manoeuvres.


Wired quote Otto’s co-founder, Lior Ron, stating ‘In the next couple of years, we’ll continue to develop the tech so it’s actually ready to encounter every condition on the road ‘.


However, the motoring organisation, AA, (editors note – Alcoholics Anonymous might disagree) have said that driverless cars are not suitable for the UK’s congested motorways.


The Guardian quote Edmund King, the President of the AA, saying, ‘Platooning [a number of lorries driving in convoy of one another] may work on the miles of deserted freeway in Arizona and Nevada, but this is not America’.


Whilst automation is impacting jobs globally, the huge logistics industry in the US could suffer huge job losses if this technology becomes the norm. In the American publication, Car and Driver, Pete Bigelow states, the ‘government leaders are urging the Trump administration to prepare for a transition period when automation puts the jobs of more than 2.5 million truck drivers at risk.’


Others are less worried about the impact of self driving vehicles upon jobs. Another US publication, Transport Topics, describes some of the reasons they believe jobs will not be lost. Some of these reasons include, deliveries needing to be loaded and unloaded, and the need for a driver to be present to rectify any issues with the technology whilst on a journey. The writer does admit that that some jobs will change as technology skills become more potent than driving skills.



Photo credit: ‘Your Uber Otto has arrived’ by Steve Jurvetson on Flickr. Licensed by CC by 2.0