Telematics Lays the Foundation for Autonomous Trucking

Current trucking technology such as telematics and fleet management solutions are key factors in the autonomous trucking revolution that could reshape the logistics industry. Industry analysts IHS Automotive estimate that sales of autonomous vehicles could reach 60,000 per year by 2035, or about 15 percent of Class 8-weight segment sales, according to a report from the American Transportation Research Institute. However, that does not take into account aftermarket technology that could be installed on existing vehicles to provide some level of autonomous operation.

At the end of 2016, there were approximately 3.46 million Class 8 trucks in the U.S., so it may be a few years before self-driving trucks represent a significant portion of the overall fleet, the report notes.

Still, this technology can help address the growth not just in consumer vehicles, but also in the transportation industry overall. Automated trucks will address several challenges that the trucking industry is simultaneously facing: hours of service, safety, driver shortage and fuel costs, explained Roland Berger.

Technology Horizons

The level of vehicle automation ranges from zero to five, according to the Society of Automotive Engineers. A basic truck with no automation is Level 0.

Many trucks today are at Level 1, which offers a basic level of driver assistance such as adaptive cruise control, but the driver is still gripping the wheel. Truck platooning, in which two or trucks are linked electronically, can be achieved at Level 1 because both drivers remain responsible for steering the trucks.

Level 2 offers partial automation but the driver is still fully engaged. At Level 3, the driver may not have hands on the wheel and feet on the pedals at all times but can quickly resume control when needed.

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