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Autonomous trucks roll onward
While self-driving cars and robotaxi trials continue to advance worldwide, big strides have been made in autonomous trucks. North America, with its network of long-haul routes, is a particularly attractive market for such systems.
As with other areas of robotics, partnerships abounded in 2022.They involved technology developers such as Apex.AI, Aurora Innovation, Einride, Embark, Kodiak Robotics, Locomotion, Pony.ai, Waymo, Locomotion, and Uber Freight. The ability to test, sell, and manage autonomous vehicles at scale and eventually bring down costs for consumer vehicles is one incentive.
The promise of mitigating worsening worker shortages (a common theme for all automation) has led logistics providers such as CEVA Logistics, Christensen Transportation, FedEx, Knight-Swift, U.S. Xpress, and Werner Commercial to work with the tech firms listed above.
As the trials begin spreading from the U.S. Southwest to longer routes and other regions, these partnerships are exploring approaches including supervised autonomy, platooning, and fully autonomous freight hauling.
A related area is yard management, where trailers and containers could be moved and unloaded via teleoperation or autonomously.
Self-driving freight will still need to deal with inclement weather; a patchwork of local, state, and federal regulations; and unions wary of robots. Even with TuSimple restructuring, the global market for autonomous trucks could grow from $1 billion in 2029 to $110 billion in 2040 according to Research and Markets.
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