The trucking industry has a driver problem. The job pays well and doesn't require a college degree, but the long hours and lonely stretches on the road make it a tough way of life. That's why the long haul trucking market sees an annual labor turnover rate of more than 90 percent, according to Bob Costello, chief economist at the American Trucking Association. The industry estimates it will need to hire a total of 890,000 new truck drivers over the next decade. The driver shortage is a problem for everyone, because trucking's crucial to the American economy.
While self-driving trucks and self-driving cars make use of much of the same technology to power their AI systems, it would be a mistake to think the expected roll out date of both developments to would be identical. The sheer weight of semi trucks creates unique technological challenges compared to self-driving cars. The substantial weight of trucks means the time it takes to stop a them is much longer than cars, and trucks have less ability to swerve to avoid an accident. At the same, the way the way trucks are deployed creates possible uses of autonomy which would be economically viable for commercial trucks but not commercial cars. For example, some trucks will spend their entire lifecycle operating on only a limited piece of private property, such as a mine, which simplifies the legal and technical issues with creating an autonomous system.
On Thursday night, Elon Musk rolled out Tesla's biggest gizmo yet: a fully electric semitruck. The Semi can go a whopping 500 miles between charges, hauling 80,000 pounds along the way. The truck comes with Enhanced Autopilot, the second generation of Tesla's semiautonomous technology, equipped with automatic braking, lane keeping, and lane departure warnings.
Uber's autonomous trucks are finally hitting the road. The ride-hailing startup said on Tuesday that its self-driving big rigs have been ferrying cargo on highways in Arizona over the past few months. For each trip, human drivers work in tandem with the autonomous trucks. Humans pick up cargo from Uber Freight customers and drive it in trailers to transfer hubs. For each trip, human drivers work in tandem with the autonomous trucks.
Daimler trucks are going autonomous -- eventually. For now, Level 2 (L2) partial automation will have to suffice. The vehicle company behind Mercedes-Benz cars announced Monday at CES 2019 that its new Freightliner Cascadia big-rig will include higher levels of robotic driving. The semi-autonomous trucks will start production in July in North America. SEE ALSO: Uber fired Anthony Levandowski.