I hate driving. So I’m looking forward to the day when autonomous vehicles will be able to take me where I need to go, such as out for a late-night poutine.
But as we all know, autonomy has proven to be a trickier problem to solve than most people initially anticipated. Though I do believe that we’re getting there, especially for certain use cases.
The WSJ recently published an interesting article talking about why autonomy is likely to reach the trucking industry well before it reaches general consumers. And that feels right to me:
Here’s the promise of robot trucks: While full self-driving in all conditions is still a pipe dream, engineers seem to be close to achieving it in limited circumstances, such as on highways on clear days. And highway driving, in good weather, happens to be exactly the context in which long-haul trucks operate for a substantial portion of the time.
The article also gets into some of the economic benefits of figuring this all out:
Adding even $20,000 of hardware, in the form of additional sensors and powerful computers, to a long-haul truck is quickly offset by the elimination of labor costs, which typically represent 15% to 20% of the cost of operating a truck. Another big economic impact is that by law a human driving a truck must stop and rest. That means every truck, which can cost between $100,000 and $200,000, is only being used about 30% to 40% of the time. Just running them 24 hours, stopping only for fuel and maintenance, increases their utilization by a factor of two or more.
For the full article, click here (paywall).