Last week, the state of Arizona banned autonomous vehicles on all state roads following a fatal car accident involving a self-driving Uber. The ride hailing company hasn’t been the only startup that’s experienced controversy and tragedy; A man driving a semi-autonomous Tesla crashed into a tractor-trailer going 70 miles per hour. Despite several warnings from the car, the victim kept the vehicle on autopilot and fatally hit the side of the big rig. This crash happened back in the summer of 2017 and since then, Tesla has updated the autopilot feature to shut off after a driver repeatedly ignores safety warnings.
Fortunately, not all autonomy is bad. The logistics and supply chain industry is getting a technological makeover as well. Google has hopped on the self-driving gravy train and they are making a stop in Atlanta, Georgia. Google’s self-driving fleet, Waymo, made their grand debut in early March of this year in the Southern city. The mega search engine’s technology will power Peterbilt Class 8 trucks and they will be used to carry freight en route to Google’s data warehouses. Google has tested these autonomous tractor-trailers in California and Arizona without incident. This comes as the transportation industry is experiencing a driver shortage. Autonomy is still very young so realistically, the driver shortage will carry on unless more qualified drivers enter the market. At this point, we can’t rely on autonomy to curve the shortage because even when autonomy is the norm, drivers will be required to be in the truck as a precaution. Autonomy will have a significant impact though, but it’s still up in the air as to when that impact will be felt.
The concept of self-driving vehicles has come a long way. From the shiny Utopian world of the Jetsons to an 18 wheeler navigating turns without human touch, we’ve started to melt away the uncertainty of the unknown. Yet, the world of innovative autonomy has decades to go before we are completely sold on the idea of being driven around by a robot.
Stay tuned, next week we take a more in depth approach to the driver shortage.