The Future of Trucking Is Automation


The Six Five Summit 2022 has just ended, and day two of the global virtual tech event brought some innovative automotive companies to speak about the future of the trucking industry in the field of automation. There are ongoing projects to build electric roads that will charge the EVs on the go or at rest. Many other creative ideas and actions were discussed at the event.

An interesting discussion with the founder and CEO of Plus, David Liu, sheds light on the future of the autonomous trucking industry and the concerns regarding the implementation of the technology. At the event, Liu said that the company works in close association with the trucker community to understand how the present technology can be used to fully automate the trucking industry.

“It’s [trucking is] a trillion-dollar industry, and it’s really exciting to be able to be part of the technology solution to help bring to market the technology that will help transform the industry,” said Liu.

Nurturing the trucking future with automation

Suppose the technology has to be implemented in the near future. In that case, as Liu said, it is important to work closely with truckers and think about facilitating them rather than taking them away from them. Addressing the safety concerns associated with this technology, Liu said, “Now, what we do very differently is we look at a commercialization approach that would be able to focus on safety that is critical to autonomous driving technology to help fleets address their pain points today.” The company’s commercial product is called Plus Drive, which allows drivers to choose between various modes to control the automation as per their needs.

Plus Completes Driverless Level 4 Semi Truck Highway Demonstration
Image: Plus

A study from the University of Michigan, published in March, opens up more debatable questions in the deployment of fully automating a truck. The study found that automation could lead to the elimination of thousands of jobs. However, these jobs were also found to be unsatisfactory and underpaid. Another finding of the study is that because of automation, there are chances that people could lose operational hours and get paid less. The study also found that trucking automation could add more short-haul jobs to the market. But the short-haul jobs pay less than the long-haul jobs.

The path forward

A recent McKinsey report that studied autonomous trucks or ATs put forward a few concerns and insights into their deployment. The primary concern is the cut on the operational hours, a subject that is still under study. Another insight is that a surge of ATs could lead to the consolidation of the now fragmented fleets in the AT market. A key insight is that if this technology is implemented, it will be highly profitable to the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer).

Autonomous Trucks Will Mean Big Savings For Freight Companies
Image: Statista

Plus works with both fleets and OEMs and is well aware of the impact that the autonomous trucking industry will have on the transportation market. While working with the OEMs or the truck manufacturers, the association happens at the fundamental level of the design and the company’s vision. With OEMs, the company is looking to “be able to install this technology at a factory and deploy it scalably,” said Liu. While working with the fleets, the integration happens at the operational level. For the fleets, the company works on “a post-factory” installation level.

Largescale automation of the trucking industry could take some time before becoming a reality due to the wide level of societal and governmental acceptance that it would need. Liu takes those challenges on board and believes that the company is in a good place. “You know, the ultimate use of technology is to help people, to help our customers achieve a safer mode to deliver more sustainable transportation solutions to society. So as long as we’re doing that, applying the technology to do that, I think we’re, we’re in a good place,” said Liu.

Driverless trucks and driverless cars

Although the technology is the same, the use cases differ across the spectrum of driverless technology applications. Plus’s main focus is on heavy vehicles for fleets and OEMs rather than passenger vehicles. They see a huge potential in the trucking market, and 90 percent of the cases they study are trucks on highways. Highways provide a great environment for the company to study the implementation of their technology. “Versus if you look at passenger vehicles, a lot of driving conditions are in the urban scenarios,” said Liu.
Plus Launches National Upfit Program Delivering Class 8 Semi Autonomous Trucks
Image: Plus
The conversation concluded with thoughts on the future of automation. Liu said, “I think, eventually, there’s no question in my mind, eventually, years later, we’re going to see a future where it’s highly automated…” For more insights, make sure to check into the Six Five Summit talk with David Liu, which can be found below. All sessions from the event can be browsed on-demand as well, even though the event has ended now.

About the Six Five Summit

The Six Five Summit is a free, virtual, on-demand event designed to help you stay on top of the latest developments and trends in digital transformation brought to you by the analyst firms Futurum Research and Moor Insights & Strategy.

YouTube: Delivering Autonomous Trucking Technology Today – David Liu

Photo credit: The photos shown are owned by Plus and were provided as part of press releases. The infographic has been done by Statista.

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Ujala Chowdhry
Ujala Chowdhry
Hello, I'm a tech journalist here. I have been able to view many facets of technology at TechAcute and continue to learn more. I love covering global tech solutions and being socially available on Twitter.
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