Fleet managers who keep an eye on industry trends will be well poised to take advantage of whatever the future might hold and out-manoeuvre the competition. Of course, divining destiny is no easy feat, but recently the metaphorical tea leaves have all been pointing to one eventuality: self-driving vehicles are coming.
While the rise of autonomous cars has been well-documented, relatively little has been said about self-driving trucks. Given the inherent dangers involved with piloting a vehicle of such size and cost, perhaps it's not too surprising. After all, controlling a truck safely is tricky enough for a human driver with years of experience, let alone creating the technology to enable the vehicle to travel from A to B of its own accord.
Daimler to to test self-driving trucks in Germany
However, this could be set to change with Daimler announcing plans to test self-driving trucks within the next few months. In late July, executive board member Wolfgang Bernhard revealed that the German marque had lodged an application with the government to test the semi-autonomous truck in the manufacturer's home state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.
'We are positive that we will get approval for tests on German motorways within the next weeks. Then we will start immediately,' said Mr Bernhard, speaking to Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, as reported by Reuters.
Daimler's Freightliner Inspiration Truck is already licensed for use in North America – the first autonomous truck to be granted this permit. You can see the futuristic big rig in action below:
As yet, there's no word on pricing, but it's easy to imagine that a vehicle packed with this much technology won't come cheap. Nevertheless, there may be some real advantages to being an early adopter of autonomous trucks.
The benefits of a self-driving truck
At the Freighliner Inspirations' unveiling in Nevada, Mr Bernhard stressed that self-driving vehicles could not only help make roads safer, they could also help boost fuel efficiency.
"The autonomous vehicle technology we are showcasing in the Freightliner Inspiration Truck will help reduce accidents, improve fuel consumption, cut highway congestion, and safeguard the environment," said Mr Bernhard, as quoted by the Daily Mail.
When used in tandem with a business fuel card, it's possible that autonomous vehicles may help fleet managers save on operating expenses.
— InsightBrief (@InsightBrief) July 16, 2015
Professional drivers will understandably be a little concerned at these developments, but rest assured regulations will require a human behind the wheel for the foreseeable future. Production is still two or three years away, and it will likely be some time after that before self-driving trucks make their way to New Zealand shores.