Could truck drivers be replaced by robots in the future?
In today's world teeming with technology and microchips, it's an honest question.
Since the industrial revolution began in the 18th century, automation, which is the use of machines and other technology to optimize production of goods and delivery of services, has been affecting the human workforce in factories and other manual industries.
However, the idea of a "robotrucker" cruising down the highway right beside four-wheelers and other non-commercial vehicles still may seem a little farfetched – almost like a sci-fi fantasy.
But it's becoming a reality in Japan.
According to a new dvice.com article, Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) has announced the results of a successful range of tests of self-driving trucks.
That's right – big rigs on autopilot.
Here's what dvice.com writer Adario Strange reports:
"The tests involved four trucks, the lead truck driven by a person, with three other autonomous vehicles following closely, forming a tightly-packed robotic caravan with a human in charge. Equipped with roof-mounted cameras and radar, the robotrucks, each about 13 feet apart from the others, were able to travel at up to 50 miles per hour, operating under a system called Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control.
According to the researchers, the caravan style of precise multi-vehicle travel allows for significantly lower energy consumption, and could increase the efficiency of shipping throughout Japan in the very near future."
So what does this mean for the U.S. trucking industry? Well, I wouldn't start looking at new career options just yet. As Strange points out in the article, there's a ton of remaining legal and public perception (and acceptance) issues to tackle as research and development continues. And that's just in Japan.
On the other hand, new technology always has naysayers in the beginning. Remember: Radio, TV, the personal computer, even basic electricity, were all just passing fads at one point – until they weren't.