Driverless cars are indeed coming to roads soon enough — the U.K.’s transport secretary , in fact, recently predicted that those vehicles would appear there within four years. Even so, it might be autonomous trucks — as in semi-trailer trucks that haul freight — that hit the highways in greater numbers initially, perhaps having a quicker impact on payments and commerce, and even autonomous vehicle technology.
The looming shortage of freight drivers is one reason behind some of the recent developments of self-driving trucks. That includes Volvo ’s recent unveiling of a self-driving electric truck called Vera (which is of Russian origin and means “faith,” as in “faith in the future”). It has no driver’s cab, but can pull loads weighing up to 32 tons and can be attached to any standard trailer, the automobile company said.
FedEx is getting into the game, too. The company said it has ordered 20 Tesla semi-trucks , the fully electric trucks that are slated for production in 2019, for FedEx Freight operations. According to FedEx, the Tesla rigs will offer increased safety at a reduce cargo cost (the 4,000 or so traffic deaths each year in the United States that involve trucks are nearly all caused by human error). The trucks have surround cameras and onboard sensors, which will help aid in avoiding objects while also enabling enhanced autopilot for automatic emergency braking, automatic lane keeping and lane departure warnings. Tesla also said that electric energy costs are half that of diesel.
Uber tried, and so far has failed, to make a name for itself in the fledgling autonomous truck industry. The ride-sharing pioneer launched its autonomous truck deliveries in May, completing the first hauls driven in tandem with both human drivers and self-driving trucks in Arizona. However, in July, the company announced it […]