Hardly a day goes by without some truck drivers thinking their days are numbered as AI, machine learning, and robotics could soon take their jobs.
In an industry that moves over 70% of U.S. freight by weight and labor and fuel costs are becoming more expensive, transportation companies are itching to swap human drivers for robot ones.
The latest example that automated semi-trucks could be available for commercial use in the next few years was the recent test by San Diego-based TuSimple.
According to a TuSimple press release, the company tested a class 8 vehicle (otherwise known as a trailer tractor) on a public road without human intervention. The nighttime test was conducted on Dec. 22 on an 80 mile stretch of highway between Tucson, Arizona, and Phoenix.
TuSimple "successfully completed the world's first fully autonomous semi-truck run on open public roads without a human in the vehicle and without human intervention," the press release said.
The one-hour and 20-minute drive is the first time a class 8 autonomous truck has operated on open public roads without a human in the vehicle and without human intervention and is part of an ongoing test program that will continue into 2022.
The test was performed in close collaboration with the Arizona Department of Transportation and law enforcement. The autonomous driving test was 100% operated by TuSimple's ADS without a human on-board, without remote human control of the vehicle, and without traffic intervention. - TuSimple
TuSimple's Autonomous Driving System can navigate streets, read traffic signals, maneuver on and off highways, and even change lanes while interacting with other vehicles.
Over the years, we've shown readers there is no shortage of reports (read: here & here) suggesting that robots can potentially displace jobs. The signs we see today, focusing on transportation, are that automated trucks could be maneuvering roads and highways by the end of the decade, perhaps as early as 2027. With that being said, all those newly minted drivers who are taking advantage of snarled supply chains might want to come up with a backup plan once automation begins to displace drivers.