I love this article by Jason Cannon over at Commercial Carrier Journal. In this article, Cannon brings up a point I think most people in our industry are missing.
It’s important to understand that autonomy comes in many different levels. Adaptive cruise, collision avoidance and lane-keeping technologies are all off-shoot autonomous technologies. The “self-driving car” may get all the publicity, but levels of autonomy are already in play on Interstates all over the country.
As an industry, we’re not going to go from zero to self-driving trucks in 6 seconds. As we saw in the passenger car industry, first we had adaptive cruise control systems that allowed us to set the cruise and the car’s system would monitor the distance between our car and the cars/vehicles in front of us.
And while I may not get the order completely right, then we saw GPS Navigation, lane-departure warning systems, infrared forward-monitoring systems, cameras monitoring road surfaces, electronic steering systems, self-parking systems, and so on…
Now of course many of these systems are nearly plug and play in terms of their ability to scale from the passenger car technology to semi-truck usage but others have to be rebuilt from the ground up. And Cannon recognizes this.
We will start to see, in the next 24 months, many of these same technologies introduced into the trucking industry but because of diesel engines doing what they do; namely, working hard for 500,000+ miles, the idea that carriers (whether large companies with 100+ power units or small owner-operators) will just replace their rigs is naïve. Replacing a rig is big decision. What’s more likely is these incremental autonomous steps will be retro-fitted to existing semis as companies see how these systems will increase efficiencies. And to that point Cannon highlight’s a modular, scalable system that shows where we are headed.
Don’t miss Nexteer’s video about their autonomous steering system.