Autonomous trucks – the story so far

Autonomous vehicle technology isn’t just about getting people from A to B. Sam Fenwick looks at the recent progress towards self-driving trucks

Much of the push for autonomous trucks comes from the huge potential cost savings. Drivers account for roughly a third of total costs – an issue compounded by the industry’s struggle to recruit and then retain sufficient drivers, the sector’s ageing workforce and the need for high hiring standards. This is illustrated by the American Trucking Associations’ prediction that by 2024, the US driver shortage will increase from 48,000 available driving jobs to 175,000, while here in the UK last year, haulage associations estimated that there was a shortfall of 45,000-60,000 drivers. And while a report commissioned by the Freight Transport Association says there are signs that the shortage has diminished, it also highlights the fact that 10 per cent of the driver workforce in the UK are EU nationals – a potential issue should a hard Brexit trigger an exodus from the UK.

In addition to direct savings from automation, there is the potential to save roughly 20-35 per cent in fuel costs. There is also safety to consider, given that roughly 94 per cent of accidents on the road are the result of human error.

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