Truckers prepare for era of driverless trucks

Forget what the experts and technogeeks are predicting for the era of driverless vehicles and trucks. What are the oddsmakers saying?

Actually, Las Vegas is quite bullish on the prospect of driverless vehicles.

In fact, Jim Murphy, an oddsmaking consultant for sports and non-sport novelty bets focused on the entertainment business, politics, technology and financial markets, is predicting that 21 million autonomous cars will be sold within the next 15 years.

“Autonomous cars–better known as ‘self driving cars’–may seem the stuff of science fiction but they’re close to becoming reality,” says oddsmaker Murphy of

His over/under on deaths this year involving autonomous vehicles? Two and a-half. If you bet the over, you can make $150 for a $100 bet. Under two and a-half deaths in autonomous vehicles will cost you $170 to earn $100.

“Despite plenty of Luddite media scare stories autonomous cars are safer than traditional vehicles,” Murphy says.

But actually there is a lot of work being done behind the scenes involving some of the biggest names in and out of transportation. Mercedes has its “Future Truck 2025” already on the highways. Apple and Microsoft are involved. There is another combine, Waymo/Google/Alphabet, working out kinks in technology. Lyft and General Motors are combining efforts. And of course Tesla and its innovative CEO Elon Musk, the peripatetic Canadian-American business magnate, investor, engineer and inventor is bullish.

So what’s happening in trucking? Last October, a unit of Uber called Otto successfully produced a self-driving truck that hauled a load of Budweiser beer without incident on a 120-mile trek through Colorado.

Otto’s co-founder, Anthony Levandowski, a former self-driving car engineer for Google, has said he believes the most important thing computers will do over the next ten years is drive cars and trucks for people.

That will have huge human resources ramifications for trucking, which currently has a shortage of 20,000 drivers that could grow to more than 100,000 within a decade because of demographics, increased drug and alcohol testing and tougher security screenings.

Driverless trucks would change that dynamic in a hurry. “We are going to see a wave and an acceleration in automation, and it will affect job markets,” Jerry Kaplan, a Stanford lecturer and the author of “Humans Need Not Apply” and “Artificial Intelligence: What Everyone Needs to Know,” recently told the L.A. Times. “Long-haul truck driving is a great example, where there isn’t much judgment involved and it’s a fairly controlled environment.”

Preparing for such a day, the trucking industry is rapidly coming to grips with how driverless trucks may be regulated.

The Trucking Alliance Board of Directors, which represents eight large trucking companies that operate 68,000 trucks, 175,000 semitrailers and containers, and employ more than 52,000 people, unanimously passed a resolution that “supports the development of advanced vehicle technologies that enable commercial drivers to utilize highly automated driving systems, enhancing their safety and security.”

The Trucking Alliance also supports the use of these technologies to achieve safety performance levels that rival commercial airlines and support other initiatives that focus on drivers and their safety, such as the following:

  • Supports advanced driver assisted technologies in commercial vehicles, rather than commercial vehicles that rely solely on full automation;

  • Believes that commercial drivers are an indispensable asset to the safe operation of commercial vehicles;

  • Maintains the principle that commercial drivers are necessary to improve the safety and security of the general public; and

  • Believes that commercial drivers are integral to supply chain accountability. This would include managing unforeseen weather events, emergencies, detours, vehicle conditions, computer software programs, cybersecurity disruptions, cargo security, and in providing efficient customer services”

Meanwhile, an autonomous truck with a big “brain” has been launched by Embark, a San Mateo, Calif.-based company whose employees include alumni from SpaceX, Audi’s self-driving team and StanfordAl (artificial intelligence).

“Automated technology has the potential to help eliminate human error and reduce crashes and fatalities,” Chao said. “So there’s a lot at stake in getting this technology right.”

Extract taken from

Written by John D. Schulz

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