“Breaker One Nine – Expect IIoT to Deliver a Convoy of Autonomous Trucks”-IIC

Click here to view original web page at blog.iiconsortium.org

by Alexander Soley (on left), Connected Vehicle Research Analyst for Dell Technologies, with a foreword by Dr. Said Tabet (on right), Chief Architect for IoT Solutions, Dell EMC

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As an IIC testbed lead and member of the IIC Steering Committee, I am very focused on keen insights into movements of IoT that will cause disruptions in various markets. At the last IoT Solutions World Congress in Barcelona (http://www.iotsworldcongress.com/congress/2016-program-at-a-glance/) my panel on Connected Vehicles (http://www.iotsworldcongress.com/activities/activity-profile/?activity=69) featured a new voice analyzing strategies for succeeding in the connected vehicle marketplace, Alexander Soley (http://www.iotsworldcongress.com/congress/2016-speakers/speaker/?speaker=373) -- the video of our session is online (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAJEbmQDg5w&t=356s). Mr. Soley has since published on the topic of connected vehicles in Digiworld Economic Journal (https://en.idate.org/product/connected-cars-future-of-the-mobile-ecosystem/), and now shares some thoughts with us on the coming disruption in freight carriage -- connected trucks.

Blog: IIoT Delivers Autonomous Trucking

Most people are aware of connected cars and should consider the changes that will come as trucking is connected as well. Autonomous trucking is coming, and the trucking industry needs to think about how it may fill the current labor shortage, how automation will help the industry, and what regulations will be put into place. Just as containerization revolutionized shipping, automation of trucks will greatly change the trucking industry.

Most people are aware of connected cars and should consider the changes that will come as trucking is connected as well. Autonomous trucking is coming, and the trucking industry needs to think about how it may fill the current labor shortage, how automation will help the industry, and what regulations will be put into place. Just as containerization revolutionized shipping, automation of trucks will greatly change the trucking industry.

The trucking industry makes up 70.1% of the United States' domestic freightage and should retain a majority of it for at least another decade. In fact, the American Trucking Association (ATA) expects that freight volumes will increase by 29% over 2015-2026. This will require the firms to add 90,000 jobs per year to meet demand, even as trucking will take a smaller share of overall freight transportation over time, with the ATA suggesting that trucking will only make up 62.5% of transportation by 2026. However, a confluence of different factors such as pay and erratic hours makes it hard for the trucking industry to meet that target. This is already resulting in a trucker shortage and companies prioritizing driver attraction and retention. While full automation may eliminate truckers in the long term, it is also true that it may fill jobs that are being opened but not being filled by human beings.

Mercedes-Benz is piloting autonomous freightliner trucks on public roads in Nevada. There are other players in the market such as Uber, Amazon, and Tesla. Nikola Motors is considering it, although right now they are focusing on technology that allows them to have one driver drive multiple trucks at once. Right now Mercedes-Benz advertises its pilot as a way to make the roads safer and free up the drivers by making "their job more attractive by assigning them other tasks." Trucking is a long and arduous job where truckers may be away from their homes for days at a time. If one automates even parts of the trip, the driver will have more tools that will allow him or her to better analyze the situation or perform other tasks such as studying or data entry. In fact, a trip can be partly automated so one can learn a skill during the slower parts of the trip and reserve one's attention for the more difficult parts of the trip. If one can fully automate the trip, trucking will become more predictable since the same programs will be “driving” each time and driver behavior will not enter the equation. It will also eliminate downtime, since autonomous trucks do not need to stop to satisfy the driver's needs to get refreshments.

It is unclear as of right now whether it would be cheaper to hire a trucker or to automate the car entirely. The Mercedes-Benz trucks are on the public roads already, but they are not ready to leave the pilot stage, especially without a driver. If there is no one on the truck, sensors will have to be installed to ensure the safety of the cargo and the truck. There are also a great number of externalities to consider, for instance how automating trucking will affect such factors as fueling stations. These will be written about in another blog. Furthermore, all these issues bring up the crucial question of regulation.

As the trucking industry automates more and more, regulations will focus less on driver behavior and more on program behavior. As of right now many private companies say they expect the modern infrastructure of lines on the roads and signage will be enough, and most of them are planning their technologies with little to no expectation of change. There are also important issues in terms of who has access to the trucking data. Many, if not most, of the regulations listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's website focus on regulations surrounding the driver, although some such as 49 CFR 383.37 and 49 CFR 387.7 can be reinterpreted so that the "employer" or "motor carrier" can be the person who "employs" the autonomous trucks. There will also be the issue of varying regulations. For example, California currently requires a driver at the wheel while Florida does not, and the vast majority of the nation which do not have laws on the subject at all. Furthermore, this all assumes that cars and trucks should be regulated in the same way, and yet the requirements of a connected car making a short run with a passenger are different from a thousand-mile trip with flammable cargo.

For additional information on this topic by Alexander Soley, please see Alex's "Driving Innovations" blog space: https://drivinginnovation.wordpress.com/

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