The trucking industry is responsible for shipping about 70 percent of all U.S. freight. But as technology continues to evolve, the trucking industry could see some significant changes to how it does business.
Perhaps the most significant potential change is the proliferation of autonomous driving technology. There has already been considerable testing of self-driving vehicles of other types — mostly standard passenger cars and those designed for services like Uber and Lyft. Technology experts believe self-driving trucks are inevitable, which would mean a massive shift for the $700 billion industry.
What would self-driving trucks mean?
Removing the human behind the wheel could lead to a widespread loss of jobs in the trucking industry. However, proponents say autonomous trucks could be significantly safer than human-driven vehicles. They would eliminate human error and reduce problems associated with distracted driving and drivers falling asleep behind the wheel.
Still, there are plenty of skeptics who say machines lack the ability to make certain types of decisions that only a human can make, and that the technology might not be at the point at which it can be completely trusted to provide an entirely safe experience. For example, could an autonomous truck distinguish between a human and a deer? Even if the truck is staffed with a human operator, is there any guarantee the operator will remain fully attentive when the technology is employed?
There is still much debate surrounding this issue — and it’s one that becomes especially controversial in the wake of highly publicized accidents, such as a recent self-driving Uber accident in Tempe, Arizona. But it does seem that, to at least some extent, self-driving technology will play a role in the future of trucking.
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