The days of friendly truck drivers blowing their air horns for kids along the highway are numbered. Someday soon, that 18-wheeler you pass might have no one behind the wheel. So buckle up for the coming age of autonomous trucks, because it’s a good bet trucking companies will get them rolling long before driverless passenger cars.
From an article in Investor’s Business Daily by Patrick Seitz.
Amid a severe shortage of drivers, trucking companies are looking to self-driving rigs to fill the gap. Proponents say the technology is there to create autonomous truck fleets within a few years. Meanwhile, development of driverless cars continues to struggle.
Two dozen states already allow commercial deployment of intrastate autonomous trucks, and they’re now on the road in some spots. Further, most states allow testing of self-driving trucks that have human backup on board. For interstate travel, however, autonomous trucks still need clearance from the federal government.
“This is the present, not the future. It’s happening now,” said Richard Steiner, head of policy and communications for self-driving truck firm Gatik. “Over the next few years, you’re definitely going to see autonomous trucks become increasingly commonplace across multiple markets.”
Rest assured, speed bumps may lie ahead. Trepidation remains over the safety of unmanned vehicles — especially those weighing 20 times that of the average passenger car. Cautious trucking companies and regulators have been tapping the brakes, making sure the technology is ready.
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