The Future of Shipping Is… …Autonomous
Who’s ready for the computer-driven semi truck?
Yeah, me neither. Regardless, that’s exactly what Daimler engineers in Nevada have put together as a proof-of-concept. It’s called the “Freightliner Inspiration”, a limited autonomous big rig that can detect the road, keep safe distances away from other cars, stay in its own lane, and obey all road signs.
This semi still requires a human at the cockpit, taking over for lane changes and roadway hazards that the computer cannot confidently handle. It uses the same software found in Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz autonomous cars, but modified for size and restricting the use of vehicle to vehicle communications. Basically, it affords semi drivers similar autonomy found in commercial jetliners.
So, what does this mean for us on the road?
Well… nothing yet. Though the “Inspiration” has completed a series of successful journeys, more testing and regulation changes remain before even a limited version of the technology can be available to customers.
What could it mean for local businesses in the future?
Shipping remains one of the biggest concerns for businesses, especially shops and retailers who depend on a steady stream of merchandise for their livelihood. Autonomous trucks can raise fuel efficiency and reduce fuel prices as well as (ironically enough) increase safety, eliminating things like cutting corners, skirting traffic laws and driving drowsy that not only causes liability issues for contract drivers and their employers, but puts the rest of us on the road at risk as well.
On the flip-side of the coin, autonomous semi trucks are a liability issue in and of themselves. Google has proven that almost all crashes in which autonomous vehicles are involved are caused by other human drivers around it, not the computer, but this hasn’t stopped questions from being raised. In the event of an incident, who is at fault? Whose insurance pays? Is the insurance world ready for the advent of autonomous shipping lanes?
These same questions surround other future-tech: the Amazon drone, the Google car, and virtual reality. Like those other examples, the self-driving semi has great applications for business and industry, is still a long ways off from being universally accepted, but it can’t be ignored.
The future is nearly here. Is your insurance coverage ready?
First Baldwin Insurance