#004 Top 5 self-driving trucks in the world

#004 Top 5 self-driving trucks in the world

Current trends in the automotive industry show that the world’s largest manufacturers are heavily preparing for a future in which car driving will be decided by computers, not by the people. The roads that autonomous vehicles will drive are no longer science fiction but a fact that could become reality in just a few years. But what about a self-driving trucks? Will they also drive the roads alongside autonomous cars in near future?

self-driving trucks [1]

Difference between autonomous trucks and cars

Although self-driving trucks and self-driving cars are using similar technology to power their AI systems, it would be a mistake to think that their developments would be identical. Because their similarities can easily mask their significant differences.

Obviously, a self-driving truck is not the exact same as a self-driving car. The sheer weight of truck creates unique technological challenges compared to self-driving cars. Trucks are much larger and lack the ability to maneuver around a potential accident like a car can. It takes a truck a lot longer to come to a complete stop when braking, and there isn’t a lot of room to avoid cars or people on the side of the road.

At the same time, the autonomy of trucks with restricted movement is much more cost-effective than autonomous cars that do not have that privilege. For example, some trucks will operate exclusively in a limited areas such as a mine or construction site, which simplifies the legal and technical issues with creating an autonomous system.

Even with the concerns many people believe that we will see self-driving trucks on the roads before we see self-driving cars. This has to do with the relative simplicity of programming a self-driving vehicle to drive on a highway, where trucks spend most of their time, compared to driving on a city street.

With all of the successful tests being completed by multiple companies, the world appears to be more confident about driving on roads where vehicles are being driven by technology. There are still kinks in the technology that need to be worked out and laws that need to be put in place, but with the way things are trending, it is likely we will see self-driving trucks fully functioning by the next decade.

The big players in autonomous trucks industry

The current focus of many companies working in this area beside of developing a software for autonomous vehicles is to find a best combination of human drivers and AI working together that can reduce fuel usage and increase run time. Also, companies are looking for a way to make these technologies commercially viable.

The following 5 companies are the most successful and far ahead of the competition in the area of self-driving trucks. Here they are:


Dymler future truck [2]

Daimler is one of the first companies to enter the field. They focus on a combination of things, including truck platooning and having a driver for safety while exiting the highway. Daimler Trucks and technology firm Torc Robotics are actively developing and testing automated trucks with SAE Level 4 intent technology on public roads since 2014. The initial routes are on highways in southwest Virginia, where Torc Robotics is headquartered. All automated runs require both an engineer overseeing the system and a highly trained safety driver certified by Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics. Safety drivers hold a commercial driver’s license and are specially trained in vehicle dynamics and automated systems.


Waymo [3]

Waymo integrated its self-driving system into Class 8 trucks and began testing them in Arizona in August 2017. Those early tests were aimed at gathering initial information about driving trucks in the region. The company stopped testing later that year and started a new round in a May of 2019. They are testing their self-driving system with both empty trucks and with freight. However, the freight will be for testing purposes only and not part of a commercial business. The self-driving trucks have two trained safety drivers who can take over if needed.

Waymo has been testing its self-driving trucks in a handful of locations in the U.S., including Arizona, the San Francisco area and Atlanta. In 2018, the company announced plans to use its self-driving trucks to deliver freight bound for Google’s  data centers in Atlanta.

Self-driving trucks are part of Waymo’s broader business strategy, which also includes launching a ridesharing service and, one day, even licensing autonomous technology to vehicle manufacturers. Each truck is equipped with a radar system to navigate the roads and a human driver in case of an emergency.


Tesla semi-electric truck [4] Tesla first released its truck in November of 2017. Their plan is to have trucks begin to deliver in 2019. Tesla’s trucks will focus on an autopilot self-driving software similar to their cars. Their autopilot is a semi-autonomous system where the acceleration, braking, and steering is controlled by a computer, with a human still at the wheel at all times. Tesla’s goal is to launch a platooning feature where automated trucks follow a single lead truck that is controlled by a driver.


Embark [5]

Embark was founded in 2016 in San Francisco. Their approach is to allow truck drivers to spend less time actually driving, which will allow them to deliver more day by day. They are working on achieving this by automating the driving process on the highway, where most of the time is spent, and letting a driver take over when they get off an exit. Embark is testing their trucks between El Paso, Texas and Palm Springs, California.


TuSimple [6]

TuSimple is a company based in Beijing, China and San Diego, California. They also have a testing facility in Tucson, Arizona, where their trucks have driven over 15,000 miles. The trucks are actually based on camera technology rather than laser-based radar, which is what most automated trucks and cars use. The company claims that this is more efficient in detecting things on the freeway, and it is cheaper than radar technology. Along with this, TuSimple requires there to be a Class A licensed driver in the vehicle at all times known as a “driver supervisor”. TuSimple plans to have a few of their trucks out on the road by the end of this year, in the U.S. and in China.

Are truck drivers out of job?

In the trucking sector, the impact of autonomous technology could be quite significant. research shows that autonomous trucks could result in the loss of 294,000 long-distance driving jobs.

But there is no need to worry. All truck drivers are not going to lose their jobs. In fact, many people believe that the introduction of self-driving trucks could lead to the opposite. As automated trucks are utilized more often, more people will be needed in those trucks. All of the companies mentioned above are testing their trucks with the full intention of having a driver in the cabin all times. There are too many things that can potentially go wrong if there are not human in the truck when it’s operating on the road.

But trucking jobs are going to change for sure. The major change is that drivers will not be expected to do as much manual driving. The job of truck drivers will slowly look more and more similar to the job of an airplane pilot.



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