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Trucking AI: Are Truckers Going to Become Obsolete?

Not so long ago, the media was echoing the news of the very first autonomous, self-driven truck. It was a beer truck with no driver on the wheel. What was really shocking of this news was the feared acceleration of the obsolescence of a driver, bound to disappear. A few months ago we knew that Japan began testing their truck convoys with autopilot on their roads, trials said to start in late 2018.

The ageing of the population and the modern society’s rising demands are accelerating the automatization of distribution networks, making the truckers in the same position as elevator operators were on their time, on the verge of extinction. The only barrier keeping this from happening is not technology, but in fact, society.

That beer delivery only needed a human to drive through the urban areas, at the warehouse’s exit and at the delivery point. The startup that created this tech monitored the truck remotely, this truck was equipped with front radar sensors to detect obstacles, two cameras for lane detection, a LIDAR sensor to capture the truck’s 3D environment and a GPS sensor.

On the same way, the six main European truck manufacturers (Daimler, Iveco, MAN, Volvo, Scania and DAF), were into an experiment that proved that heavy-duty transport between different countries was possible. And boy, oh boy did they proved themselves right. they proved that repetitive routes that take place from point A and B (such as from a port or warehouse to a factory and back) are fully “robotizable”, making a truck driver, almost useless.

People Don’t Want to be Truck Drivers

In Europe, one in every 20 jobs is related to transportation, which means there are nearly 11 million Europeans employed in this industry. However, the ageing in the workforce population and the lack of drivers together with a generational shift and a growing demand are making automatization a final solution to all these inconveniences.

Let’s remember, being a truck driver isn’t an easy job, days away from home, most of the time you’re alone, eating at places that might make you sick, sleeping in uncomfortable places, and driving thousands and thousands of miles at a constant speed. The new generations aren’t choosing a career path on the road.

The main goal of this transportation system automatization is focused on making the trucking industry safer and avoid (if not eradicate) road mortality. Specifically, on Japan, their main goal is to cover the lack of truck drivers but, when we see there are over 3 million truck drivers on Europe, the consequences of this “solution” are translated into job losses.

Now, the positives aspects presented by this new type of logistics is that drivers will be able to rest during long routes, this way, accidents because of a sleep deprivation are diminished. Of course, drivers won’t be completely overthrown by an AI. This scenario foresees that traditional jobs like a truck driver and a delivery man might be doomed to disappear.