How Self Driving Trucks Will Affect America’s Roads
It’s all over the news. Speculation and research about the role of self driving vehicles have reached near a fever pitch. There’s been positioning to let these cars and trucks on the road as soon as possible. Many car and technology companies have been working hard to get the first widely available SDC on the road by the end of the decade if not sooner.
Medium had a fascinating look into how the country’s roads and economic system will shift as these vehicles hit the road. The concern is so high that Bloomberg even published an article asking if self driving trucks will destroy America.
With all of the hyperbole aside, it is very clear that a major culture shift will occur over the next two generations. The American car culture will change irreparably, and if not careful, in many ways that drivers would like to avoid. Many towns and truck stops will find themselves empty as the current patterns of the road are altered forever. The current shortage of professional drivers and logistical issues can make the trucking industry a natural fit for the first autonomous vehicle fleet.
There are certainly positives to be included in the changes. The cars and trucks operated by computer will have greater fuel efficiency and less down time. Taking out many elements of driving from the driver’s cab will increase comfort for an operator, including greater sleeping quarters. The vehicles will also allow for a decrease in the price of goods.
There are potential negatives as the shift becomes profound. Even though fuel efficiency may increase, the hiked level of driving will likely increase overall fuel consumption, which has been falling for almost a decade. There are also issues regarding computer or GPS systems leading to stalled cars and severe accidents. What happens if an autonomous ambulance fleet can’t access map data for a week due to an unforeseen emergency?
All of these questions should be strongly considered before we jump in with both feet. Technology has always been the country’s friend and its responsible use can make major strides. In the wrong hands or pushed without proper regulation, dangerous mistakes can be made.