Parking assistant, lane keeping assistant, intelligent brake and cruise control – modern cars are packed with modern technology. Will autonomous trucks cause drivers to lose their jobs soon?
From time to time, we hear in the media about further tests of autonomous trucks. We learn that they were successful, and the implementation of heavy-duty autonomous vehicles in road traffic is only a matter of time. Is it really?
AUTONOMOUS TRUCKS ARE ALREADY RUNNING
Yes, Gatik has signed another contract in the United States. As part of the project, autonomous trucks will cover a 14-kilometer route from the Tyson Foods warehouse to the local Walmart. The company already provides similar services in other places in the USA and Canada. The first ones were short, repeatable routes that the self-propelled truck will quickly learn.
Is it just about technical progress? Absolutely not! An autonomous truck circulates between the store and the warehouse for up to 18 hours a day – 7 hours longer than a live driver. This allows you to replace cars with smaller ones, thus reducing CO2 emissions and journeys with a car only half loaded. And most importantly – it’s simply cheaper.
Autonomous trucks can also be found on longer routes. In the middle of this year, such a vehicle traveled over 56 kilometers in traffic in China without any human intervention. The Russians from Kamaz, who used autonomous trucks for transport in difficult regions of the Arctic, also boast of successes.
WILL AUTONOMOUS TRUCKS EMPOWER DRIVERS?
While it seems that the wider use of autonomous vehicles for transporting goods is only a matter of time, its scope may already raise considerable doubts. On short, repetitive routes or in extreme weather conditions, such automation makes perfect sense. In the case of “ordinary” transport, this seems much less likely.
And we’re not talking about technical problems or risks – these can probably be significantly minimized or even overcome over time. However, we often forget that a driver’s job is not only about driving a car. We have already devoted a separate entry to this topic. You will learn from it that 1/4, and in some cases even 1/3, of a driver’s work are activities other than driving. Someone will have to do this work too. Part of it will probably go to the warehouse staff, part to the administrative staff, and part to the mechanics servicing the vehicles. No matter what – you will also need a person for this.
It can therefore be assumed that in the future, thanks to autonomous vehicles, fewer drivers will be needed on the labor market. And this is definitely good news, because in Poland alone there is a shortage of about 150,000 of them. Will unmanned trucks be able to fill this gap in the coming years? There would have to be a sudden technological leap. The version in which self-driving cars will replace drivers in the simplest and least attractive places (where the temperature is extremely high or low) is definitely more likely, but professional drivers will still have something to do.
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