Self-Driving Delivery Trucks? For Real?
Yes, you heard right. Self-driving trucks. Once a figment of creative people's imaginations, then on a drawing board, today, self-driving trucks actually exist. Daimler, in fact, introduced the Highway Pilot autonomous (driverless) truck in July of 2013. Daimler showcased its fully functioning, autonomous truck on a section of the Autobahn outside of Magdeburg, Germany. It's not ready to go yet, but it could be ready by 2025 for use in the real world.
2025 – or sooner
Truck platooning technology may also soon be ready for real-world use. With this, instead of individual trucks, partially self-driven "road trains" or convoys of vehicles under the command of a lead vehicle would be the norm. With this set up, drivers would be able to relax, take a nap, read a book, or even just sit and watch the scenery go by as long as the lead vehicle is in control. When the convoy ends, the driver takes back control of the truck and exits the train, breaking away from the lead truck's guidance. This technology can cut down on accidents and improve fuel efficiency, too.
Still need truck drivers
Daimler and other developers are quick to caution that these new self-driving trucks still need drivers, at least for now. That is, truck drivers aren't unnecessary, but rather become transportation managers instead of drivers for most of the trip, taking over actual driving only when needed.
Safer, better, faster
Self-driven trucks aren't new products, but a change in the transport system of the future. Greater traffic safety, greater conservation of resources, reduced emissions and the elimination of both physical and mental stress for truck drivers in tough traffic and road conditions are all key components to the validity and value of the self-driving truck. Truck drivers no longer physically control the truck at all times as they normally would, but instead become like airline pilots. They are simply there to take over when necessary, but monitor systems at all times.