Could Self-Driving Trucks Be The Future Of Shipping Cars?

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Autonomous vehicles (AVs) that use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to operate without a driver are a hot topic of conversation, particularly among people in the logistics and shipping industries. The idea of self-driving cars and trucks is one that’s very appealing to many shipping professionals who are interested in cutting costs and offering better service.

And it seems likely that, eventually, AVs like self-driving trucks will take over our roads. Research has been ongoing in the field for more than a decade and many breakthroughs have been made and it’s been predicted that the global Autonomous Vehicle market will grow to more than $60 billion by 2030 alone. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that self-driving trucks could shape the future of shipping cars now.

Self-Driving Trucks Could Offer A Lot Of Benefits When Shipping Cars

AVs like self-driving trucks have some obvious advantages, like not requiring a driver to operate. This leads to a number of unique benefits, particularly when shipping cars.

  •     Lower costs – The lack of a driver means that self-driving trucks will be, in general, less expensive to operate. While there are still some fixed costs associated with self-driving trucks, like maintaining and regularly checking the software and hardware, these costs are still anticipated to be lower – resulting in higher profits for car shipping companies and lower costs for their customers.
  •     More reliable shipping routes – With a fleet of fully-autonomous vehicles, it’s likely that shipping routes will become more set and reliable – more similar to how trains operate. Most trucks will run on fixed shipping routes on predictable schedules, which will lead to more consistent delivery times.
  • Faster delivery – Unlike a truck driver, an autonomous vehicle does not have mandated rest periods, or a limit on how far it can drive in a day. Hypothetically, the truck could operate 24 hours per day – at 65 mph, that means it could cover over 1500 miles each day.

Naturally, there are some limits on this, such as mechanical strain on truck components, but the fact remains that, in ideal conditions, self-driving trucks can cover much more distance than human operators, which will likely help improve delivery times.

  •     Reduced traffic congestion – Another benefit of self-driving trucks is that they can operate during off-peak hours, such as between the hours of 8 PM and 8 AM. This can help decrease overall traffic congestion both for other trucks and for passenger vehicles, making it easier for commuters to share the road with trucks.

Trucking Jobs Won’t Go Away Just Because Of Self-Driving Trucks

According to as well as research from Uber, fears of trucking jobs and related positions being eliminated by self-driving trucks are over-exaggerated – and it’s possible that self-driving trucks may actually encourage growth in the shipping and logistics industry.

There are a few reasons for this. First, it’s unlikely that self-driving trucks will be fully autonomous and able to ship vehicles from terminal-to-terminal for quite a long time. Most industry experts believe that these vehicles will begin by driving autonomously on major interstate highways – eliminating the need for a driver for a long portion of the journey.

However, when the truck enters a city or other area where traffic becomes more complex and rapid decision-making is required, it’s likely that a driver will take over and guide the vehicle to its end destination. This could lead to an overall increase in trucking jobs – as more freight is sent by truck due to the low cost of self-driving trucking, more “last-mile” drivers may be needed. 

In addition, the labor required to actually load up a truck should be considered, particularly when shipping cars. When shipping vehicles, special open-air car carriers are often used, which can accommodate up to 10 cars. There is no way to automate this process now, and there is unlikely to be a way to automate this process in the future.

Self-Driving Trucks Hold A Lot Of Potential For The Vehicle Shipping Industry

While self-driving trucks do seem to have a lot of promise, it’s important to keep our expectations grounded in reality. There are only a few startups like TuSimple operating partially-autonomous trucks today, and these vehicles are not yet fully self-driving. It may be years – or even decades – before AVs and self-driving trucks take over our roads.

Still, it always pays off to look toward the future. AVs are coming, and are sure to change a lot about the car shipping and freight business in the future. Thought leaders, stakeholders, and anyone else who operates in this industry must make sure to prepare for this seismic shift – and take advantage of the benefits it can offer to the car shipping industry.

You may be interested in: “How Self-Driving Cars Will Change Everything About Business Travel”