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March 14, 2020 | 22:03

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How Autonomous Trucks Impact The Future of Logistics

The smooth and relatively boring highways might make drivers feel sleepy, leading to crashes and a huge loss to the supplier of the goods. With that factor comes an increased need for digitization and autonomous tracks. By upgrading semi-trucks, logistics companies can also save fuel, increase safety, and optimize routes like never before. Artificial intelligence truck driving give truck drivers and businesses the power to make more informed decisions.

Digitalization is influencing, reinventing, and rethinking the trucking industry. The impact of autonomous trucks (ATs) on logistics would not be an exception. Sure, new tech won’t completely remove men from the industry, but it could help save lives on the road and make truck driver work easier. Autonomous trucks are already disrupting the logistics supply chains of retailers, and in the future, this impact could get even bigger! Logistics plays a huge role in transporting goods and raw materials. So, the development of autonomous trucks will deeply impact it. In the following insights, we will see what autonomous trucks mean to freight companies and what impact it may bring.


What Are Autonomous Trucks?

Autonomous semi trucks are huge trucks run by artificial intelligence and machine learning with human monitoring. Live feeds of the traffic from cameras, fuel regulation system, multiple sensors, and real-time processing are all required at the same time to design an autonomous truck.

Artificial intelligence (AI) can track multiple sources of information and pull them together into a pattern so that the truck can drive itself. Artificial intelligence is a process that grows as it gets more and more feedback and becomes better. Multiple sensors will help the truck to avoid crashing into other vehicles or people.

Therefore, an artificial intelligence truck driving is the best example of AI on the road reducing the need for human service. If you are asking, “When will autonomous trucks be on the road?”, they have already gone through that step. Many companies have started utilizing them for commercial purposes.

Where Are They Used?

The autonomous-driving market is expected to reach $1 billion this year and $1.6 billion by 2025. That tells us that the market is huge. Thus autonomous driving trucks can help to cut down the operating costs and provide an increased profit margin.

However, autonomous trucks are not an everyday thing to be seen. On a normal day, trucks can be used to continue deliveries, for concrete mixing, suction evacuation, on-site for fire fighting, etc. For now, machine learning and AI have been applied only for delivery systems and the mining industry, for example:

  • Autonomous shipping trucks have been used to deliver Frigidaire refrigerators 650 between the warehouse in El Paso, Texas, and Palm Springs, California. This started in October 2017. A driver in a cab constantly monitors it, but ultimately a human cab driver would no longer be needed.
  • Another autonomous truck was reported to deliver butter after doing a 41-hour ride across the US. It has been developed by Plus.ai, which incorporated SLAM technology in the trucking industry. SLAM technology utilizes sensors, cameras, lidar, and radar. It had a safety driver aboard, but they never interfered as the autonomous truck smoothly continued its journey.
  • The leading delivery company, UPS, has also taken a step forward and utilized AI to deliver their goods. The autonomous delivery trucks in use were started by TuSimple, and they are travelling solo between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona. These autonomous delivery trucks run on level 4 autonomy. This means that the autonomous freight trucks need only a safety-driver, and they could be used ones the delivery area has locked on specially designed locations.
  • Autonomous mining trucks have also been developed to help at mining grounds to minimize costs. Since these are baby steps, an engineer and a driver are currently still on board for now.

    What Are the Technologies?

    Autonomous trucks have been developed at all levels except the 5th level of autonomy, which does not require a driver. Level 4 autonomy trucks are on the roads right now and performing well. The following technologies are used in the creation of the solo beasts on the roads:

    1. Complex Neural Network — autonomy comes with perceiving things. So whatever the vehicle sees on the road, it has to perceive, identify, and classify. To be able to do that, a highly complex network of neurons similar to the human brain has to be developed.

    2. Sensors — the main technology used is sensors that help to detect cars, bikes, trucks, people, animals, trees, plants, rocks, and other environmental issues.

    3. Real-time Processing — the AI pulls information through live feedback from cameras and performs real-time processing. It is important for the vehicle to understand patterns of the traffic and to adapt to the changes in the traffic.

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    4. Traffic Light — traffic light detection (also a system that makes a decision based on it) has to be incorporated. The colors on the traffic light stimulate certain signals in the neural networks which command the truck to accelerate or brake in an instant.

    5. Radar and Lidar — they are put into the complex system to understand the distances between the truck and other vehicles. This is important to make a split-second decision to change lanes, decelerate, accelerate, or push the brakes.

    Major Pros and Cons of ATs

    For some businesses and truck logistics, it would be cheaper to have experienced drivers who are conversant with routes. Paying for the process development from scratch and hiring safety-drivers who can monitor the machine learning process of autonomous AI trucks is costly. However, artificial intelligence is a technology that is constantly learning and adapting, and the industry is working towards the future of AI and machine learning. Let’s go through the list of other pros and cons of artificial intelligence truck driving!

    Pros

    1. Saving lives — as per recent road traffic crash reports, almost 1.25 million people die on average in road traffic accidents. Additionally, 20-50 million are disabled for life. Most of them are because of human error. Many such lives can be saved by autonomous vehicles, including trucks, without a driver behind the wheel.

    2. Better for the economy — first of all, accidents cause a huge economic burden on the world. Secondly, there is already a shortage of labor as per recent labor statistics. Therefore, the money spent on truck drivers and their needs during the whole trip also creates a burden. Autonomous trucks decrease all those economic burdens and increase the profit margin by a high percentage.

    3. Quick commute — autonomous trucks will be able to sense other cars and vehicles at a distance. This will help them to maintain a safe distance or change the route if needed. Given the live feeds from cameras, Google Maps, and satellites, the trucks will seek a quicker highway route to achieve their destination. Also, since human errors are minimal, the truck can go at a higher speed due to its constant monitoring and sensor utilization.

    4. Environment-friendly — the autonomous trucks will have less fuel consumption. Without human intervention, the fuel consumption can be significantly decreased. Also, most of the autonomous trucks are electric vehicles, so that saves fuel and is efficient too.

    Cons

    1. Hacking — since it is a computer-based system, hacking always poses a possible threat. This can include life-endangering crashes. If a truck’s system is hacked, the hacker could reprogram it to a different location to steal the load or cause havoc with the acceleration or brakes.

    2. Moral decisions — with a driverless carrier on the road, several important decisions are left to the on-board system to be made. For example, if an animal suddenly appears in front of the truck, the program won’t be able to stop the truck if it is traveling at a higher speed. The options are to either hit the animal or to swerve, and this decision could have a great impact.

    3. Loss of jobs — although AI is boosting the economy and helping hundreds of companies gain a higher profit margin, at the same time, hundreds of truck drivers are losing their jobs. For now, drivers are required to sit and monitor, but there is a possibility when the truck might run without a human.

    4. Expensive — developing AI and its continual updates require large funds. This isn’t a one-time investment. The cost of an AI truck would be between $100,000 and $300,000 without the inclusion of the infrastructure needed. It will take years before it is available at a lower price to the average person and small business.

    Impact on the Future

    Logistics is a huge industry with numerous important uses for people. The use of AI is exciting and can have an even more exhilarating impact on customers. In the future, completely driverless trucks with level 5 autonomy are something to watch out for. In the years to come, we can expect driverless delivery systems with complete automation. This will guarantee timely and safe delivery without human errors.

    When will autonomous trucks take over? It is a common question asked by logistics and AI enthusiasts. Over the span of the next ten years, autonomous trucks might replace human truck drivers by 50-70 percent.

    Final Thoughts

    Autonomous trucks have an amazing impact on the logistics industry and have a bright future if development continues. Machine learning is the heart of AI, and in-depth learning is necessary to overcome the problems dealt with when the trucks are on the road. A deep exploration of AI technology is required to make it flawless and have a driverless logistics industry.

    If you want to become a successful business person in this industry and you have an idea which includes AI, contact Amconsoft now for more advice and support with autonomous trucks. Amconsoft has helped several transport and logistics startups with the integration of software and AI since 2014!

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