While many thought self-driving technology would remain in the realm of consumer cars for some time — after all, self-driving cars are still being tested in limited markets — the technology could become a big part of the future of trucking.
A Silicon Valley start-up called Otto, which was started by former Google employees who were involved in the company’s self-driving car project, has started testing their self-driving technology on three Volvo commercial trucks equipped with radar, cameras, and spinning laser sensors. By May 2016, the trucks had already logged more than 10,000 miles.
Otto has also affiliated with Uber to outfit the trucks. Uber, meanwhile, is developing its own self-driving taxis and it’s launched a pilot program to test the taxis in urban areas. At some point, Otto’s technology will be paired with Uber’s work in urban environments to create commercial vehicles that are fully self-driving.
Uber has already been approached by trucking company executives interested in the technology and it has permits from the federal government to operate self-driving trucks on the highway.
Eventually, the technology will hopefully improve efficiency and safety by eliminating the human element from truck driving. Improving safety for truck drivers and other consumers by reducing the number of truck accidents is one of the greatest benefits that self-driving technology can offer. The technology may include automated features that, for example, have a pre-set “end of day” that pulls the truck off the road when the truck driver hits the legal number of hours logged.