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The logistics industry is going through profound changes with
digitilisation and other technological advances that have the
potential to decrease substantially the cost of transporting goods
over land. Although autonomous passenger cars are receiving the
most attention, autonomous technology is expected to have a greater
impact on the global trucking and logistics industry. Autonomous
trucks are gaining a great deal of traction in the transportation
industries because of a growing shortage of drivers, improved
efficiency, and increased safety.

  • A truck driver shortage is adding to global supply chain
    challenges, preventing the trucking sector from fulfilling the
    increased demand driven by a boom in e-commerce. In the US,
    according to an October 2021 estimate by the American Trucking
    Associations, the shortage of truck drivers was at an all-time high
    of 80,000. The shortfall might increase to more than 160,000
    drivers by 2030, according to the industry body, due to an ageing
    workforce and an expected freight increase.
  • Another huge challenge in the logistics industry is
    underutilisation and inefficient load procurement; hence, these
    trucks will enable autonomous loading and unloading of containers
    in yards and ports, resulting in increased efficiency. The low
    utilisation rates not only reduce the efficiency of operations and
    distribution for the rest of the supply chain, but also increase
    the number of trucks on the road, resulting in increased greenhouse
    gas emissions.
  • One of the most promising aspects of autonomous truck
    technology is the potential to increase truck safety. Distracted
    drivers and impaired driving are considered the biggest causes of
    the increased number of fatalities, which autonomous trucking
    technology is expected to solve as the systems provide a 360-degree
    view of the surroundings, process more information, and react
    faster compared with a human driver.
  • Technology companies have been conducting a variety of
    autonomous truck pilots and currently these programmes deploy
    trucks in limited areas where their movement is confined within
    defined geographies. These pilots are undertaken with the
    expectation of validating an AV system, starting with line-haul,
    on-highway applications on simple interstate scenarios and in fair
    weather conditions. Then, the aim is to expand the pilots to
    more-challenging driving conditions, aimed at increasing the
    adoption of automated features in trucks from Level 1 to fully
    autonomous capabilities (Level 5).
  • As autonomous trucking becomes more popular, consumer
    perceptions of autonomous technology’s safety will have an impact
    on acceptance and adoption, acting as an accelerator or a
    deterrent. A strategic plan to accelerate the development and
    adoption of commercial AVs includes four dimensions: a legal
    framework, new regulations, appropriate road infrastructure, and
    collaboration with manufacturers.

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This article was published by S&P Global Mobility and not by S&P Global Ratings, which is a separately managed division of S&P Global.

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