As the buzz around driver-less (autonomous) trucks increases, some who are debating a career in truck driving question the future of the industry. At SAGE Truck Driving School, we are seeing an increased demand for new drivers, but decided to do some research on just how close we are to seeing these vehicles on the road.
A report by the American Center for Mobility, projects that significant numbers of automated vehicles will not be deployed until near 2030. When that happens, we might see a drop in car driving jobs like taxi cabs, but for truck driving jobs that is hardly the case. Studies indicate there is still so much to be figured out. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows the readiness for such vehicles to adequately handle the challenge of taking over all driver functions is still very much in doubt. According to experts, there is just no substitute for human drivers in situations like negotiating hills and curves, adapting to weather conditions, etc.
Aside from concerns about ability, safety and readiness, there are major legal concerns to think about. Consider this: There is no legal path to suing a self-driving truck that hits and kills someone. What happens when there is no driver to sue? Based on current liability laws, the freight company who made the truck cannot be sued. Even if those liability laws were changed, that would mean the maker of the self-driving software, the equipment manufacturers, and everyone else involved in the truck’s machinery could be sued. Clearly, this is going to meet some harsh push back and will likely be fought out in courts for years.
Suffice to say trucking experts are certain that driver-less technology isn’t going to put America’s 1.8 million truckers out of work anytime soon. The technology isn’t fully developed yet, and the law is far from catching up to it. The fact is, the current driver shortage still fuels the demand for truck drivers and will continue to for many foreseeable years ahead. Just because the technology is getting closer, doesn’t mean it makes sense to implement it. Remember, over 55 years ago The Jetsons aired on TV and convinced most of us we’d be flying ourselves to work by now. The technology might be here, but applying it may prove to be impractical at best.