Navigating the Future of Self-Driving Trucks

When it comes to the future of trucking, those of us in the industry like new toys. Sleek trucks made of super-light materials and designed to work with the wind are just the tip of the iceberg. What I currently find most fascinating are three words that are at once exciting and a little bit scary: self-driving trucks.

The first self-driving truck hit the road on May 6 of this year, cruising the open highways of Nevada. The Freightliner Inspiration, a modern take on the popular Daimler 18-wheeler, is sleek, savvy, and Smart. That’s Smart with a capital S, like phones, watches, Siri.

Hearing that some mad scientist is developing what might be your replacement isn’t exactly good news, but don’t panic! First of all, the Inspiration will take at least a decade of testing in various environments before it’s road-legal for actual use. Second, it seems like the folks at the companies developing these trucks of the future are indeed being smart about it. There’s no computer than can accurately replicate the human know-how that comes from years on the road, and they know that.

For example, Daimler’s self-driving truck, seen in action here, combines the best of both worlds. This truck is programmed to handle the long stretches of highway driving that dominate much of a truck driver’s day, allowing the driver to rest, talk to family on the phone, or enjoy the scenery.

For off-highway driving or potentially hazardous road conditions, the navigation system signals the driver to take the helm once more and do what he or she does best. Pretty smart, huh? LED lights on the truck’s front and sides change color to signal to other drivers whether the truck is on manual or autopilot, a pretty neat safety feature. There’s no replacing a seasoned pro, but I think technology that works with drivers, rather than against them, is the wave of the future. Remember the days before GPS? Now, we can’t imagine living (and working) without it!

Though I suppose not every professional driver needs GPS to get through the day:

Self-Driving Truck GPS

Stay on course this weekend,