Worried about driverless trucks? “Don’t give up that CDL any time soon” says Deborah Lockridge, Editor in Chief of Heavy Duty Trucking Magazine (Taking it Slow on the Road to Autonomous Trucks). Although many in Silicon Valley see driverless trucks as a replacement for human drivers Lockridge notes that every demonstration she has seen still required a human driver. Citing the airline industry, she notes “we’ve had automatic pilots on planes for some time now, but a pilot is still required to be on duty just in case”. And no one at this time is talking about pilotless planes.
The near future would more likely have driver assisting technologies rather than driver replacement technologies. Driverless vehicles sound great but driving is only one aspect of the job. In most places the job of loading and unloading the truck still falls to the driver. The driver also has to inspect the vehicle before and after trips. Like planes, inspections will require both automated and visual examination.
There are other reasons why completely autonomous trucks will not happen so fast. First there is infrastructure. We aren’t maintaining the infrastructure we have. Picture this, an autonomous truck is driving down the highway, hits a pothole and blows a tire. Is the autonomous tow truck going to come and fix it? Then there’s software, right now several companies are testing their own systems but there aren’t going to be all different kinds of software on the road. It would most likely be open sourced say tech people, with all of society on the same page.
That invites the next question, what about crime and anarchy? Security professionals say it is not if your device will be hacked, but when. Just last week Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg’s Twitter and Pinterest accounts were hacked. So what happens when some hacker hijacks a truck (hackerjacks?) and there is nobody in the cabin to override it? Could someone remotely stop a vehicle? See Hackers Remotely Kill Jeep on the Highway. What about stopping the vehicle to steal the cargo? What about commandeering the vehicle to cause an accident or block traffic? It does not take a Hollywood screenwriter to think of many dangerous scenarios.
There are many benefits to driver assist technologies but taking humans out of the cab completely is at best impractical and at worst deadly.