The next step in self-driving trucks is already underway, with companies such as Uber putting “robots on the road” in such states as California and Arizona. Now Waymo is testing out their self-driving trucks in Atlanta, GA this month.
Self-Driving But Not Driverless
Waymo began as a project under Google, and as such will be testing their trucks by delivering shipments to Google’s data centers. Waymo made an announcement toward the start of March that its trucks will still require drivers. The purpose of this pilot program is to see how well technology and truckers work together. Data already shows that self-driving trucks are very capable of handling highways, but need a human counterpart to make fast judgment call when navigating streets on the city level. The information gained from the project in Atlanta, GA will allow Google to improve upon their own technology to make self-driving trucks safer and more “aware” of their surroundings.
Waymo Aims To Take Stress Off Truckers
The age of self-driving trucks is becoming a reality. However, the day where we see fleets operating without truckers in the cab is still a long way off. Waymo, and by extension Google, understand the need for people, but they also know that truckers are under a lot of stress. All of the factors and variables truckers have to manage – from predicting the movements of surrounding vehicles, to weather, wind, construction, pedestrians, speed, and more – translates to increased stress and fatigue from over-stimilation. Self-driving trucks are designed make truckers into managers, of sorts. Truckers oversee the vehicle’s operations, but do not have to do most of the mental labor involved on highway conditions. Then, truckers can take over when navigating city streets. Essentially, it is like having two drivers per truck, one human and one computer.
Obviously, legislation throughout various states still has to be drawn up or revised with the introduction of self-driving vehicles. If Waymo trucks are a success in Atlanta, GA is may mean having to revisit the ELD mandate which went into effect last year. If self-driving trucks are shown to reduce the levels of fatigue in human co-pilots, when perhaps an allowance can be made to increase the number of hours drivers spend on the road. In a strange way, the short-term success of self-driving trucks may end up removing limitations driver hours, and allow them to take home more pay.