Driverless Vehicles: A Possible Solution To The Driver Shortage?

Written by Neal Willis

Increased government regulations, such as the ELD Feb9th_1mandate and new driver health and safety requirements, make it probable that the driver shortage within the trucking industry will get worse before it gets better.  With multiple benefits that could lower costs and make roads safer, Autonomous Vehicles (AV’s) are seemingly one solution to the crisis; however, along with their potential upside comes some unique challenges and concerns.


Potential Benefits Of AVs

Safety - By removing the human element, you essentially take distractions out of play, which, as a result, can lead to safer roads with fewer accidents.  Driverless vehicles can fully monitor their surroundings on all sides with the latest sensors and video technology and, unlike humans, computers don’t text and drive.

HOS - Computers aren’t subject to fatigue, so the necessity of the Hours of Service rules could be called into question.  At the very least, the Hours of Service rules will likely need some modifications.

More Choices For Delivery - Freight can travel further distances over shorter periods of time when you remove hours of service and fatigue as variables in the equation and, as a result, end users can benefit from more customizable delivery options. 

Better Fuel Economy - Technology can permit vehicle drafting and, with computers at the helm, fuel efficiency can be optimized to save carriers and shippers a vast amount of money.

Better Asset Utilization - The internet of things will enable vehicles to keep in tune with live traffic conditions and route coordination will permit better use of equipment and reduce the impact of highway congestion, all of which reduce operating costs for carriers.


Potential Challenges Of AVs

Acceptance - People have trouble entrusting computers to ruleiStock_000080717441_Medium_Challenges_Ahead the road.  Skepticism already exists heavily among the general public and, as with any change, convincing users to adopt new technology can be a slow, drawn out process.

Federal & State Regulation - Federal and State regulations are necessary and standards, limits and laws need to be set.

Certification, Testing & Licensing - Along with Federal and State regulations comes the challenge of setting the standards for technology and platforms.  Funding is needed for licensing and the roles for law enforcement and compliance monitoring need to be clearly defined, established and assigned. 

Insurance - Insurance coverage would likely be expensive for a plethora of reasons.

Cyber Security - As with anything connected to the internet, cybersecurity is a concern.  Hackers could breach vehicle software.  Accidents and theft are key concerns that could contribute to higher insurance costs and increased liability exposure. 

Liability - Who will determine liability?  If there is an accident, is the owner of the vehicle, the computer manufacturer, the software developer, or some other party liable?  Costly legal battles are sure to ensue, especially since there’s a lack of legal precedents that have been established which involve driverless vehicles.

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