self driving semi truck from tusimple
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Self-driving vehicles have become increasingly popular over the last few years and thanks to advancements in technologies, engineers can focus on the commercial potential of autonomous vehicles. More specifically, self-driving freight trucks are the next goal for the industry.

But there are still several obstacles in the way. One of the biggest hurdles that the industry must overcome is infrastructure.

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For long-haul jobs, driving on the interstate doesn’t present much in the way of problems. But it’s the journey from a facility to the interstate that presents a problem.

One potential solution is to have humans handle the short, complicated driving parts. Then, drivers would transfer the freight to a self-driving truck to handle the less complex bulk driving.

A recent study from the University of Michigan shows that a system like this could potentially impact up to 94 percent of long-haul trucking operator-hours in the United States. And that could affect up to 500,000 jobs.

Image: TuSimple

But infrastructure is not the only challenge that the industry must overcome. The other major issue is the weather. Right now, autonomous trucks can only be trusted in clear weather. Poor weather, mainly snow, renders the current autonomous system fairly useless.

The study above mentions that most self-driving truck testing is currently being done only in southern states. With that restriction, the study found that this system would only impact about 10 percent of long-haul trucking operator-hours.

As we can see, there are definitely several obstacles still in the way of autonomous trucking in the United States. But I expect this industry to continue making advancements. Especially considering the increasing demand for truck drivers in this country.

We likely won’t be seeing a major shift to autonomous trucking for a while. But the industry will certainly be working to make advancements. And we’ll definitely be hearing more about self-driving trucks over the next few years.

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