VANCOUVER, B.C. – Innovation has long disrupted the transportation industry, from the advent of the motorized vehicle to a conceivable future of automation.
Opening the Canadian Transportation Research Forum’s (CTRF) annual conference in Vancouver, B.C., today, a panel discussed how transportation has evolved over the years, as well as how turning points have spurred innovation and change.
Geoffrey Wood, senior vice-president of policy for the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), was on hand to highlight how the Humboldt tragedy, perhaps the most significant “disruption” to impact trucking in recent memory, led to several changes within the industry.
Several of those changes included mandating technological innovation, such as electronic logging devices (ELDs), which will become law in Canada in 2020.
The CTA composed a 10-point action plan following Humboldt. In addition to mandating ELDs and pushing for mandatory entry-level training, the list included such efforts as the feasibility of requiring carriers to use forward-facing cameras; increasing the use of in-cab technologies to monitor distracted driving behaviors; assess market readiness of advanced driver assist systems; and explore ways to expand pre-screening technology like weigh-scale bypass – all of which are technological innovations that have potential to disrupt the industry.
“Trucks need to go everywhere, they need to be reliable, and they need to be safe,” said Wood. “There’s a lot of stuff here that is in the works, and it’s important to continue working with our partners to have them move forward.”
The CTA’s efforts following Humboldt were to address one of the alliance’s top priorities, truck safety. The driver shortage, ELDs, Driver Inc., providing a level playing field and effective enforcement, and the elimination of emissions tampering round out the primary efforts the CTA aims to achieve.
The ultimate innovation that could have a significant impact on the trucking industry is automation. Already available with various advanced driver assist technologies, Wood said when it comes to full automation, the industry needs to be realistic, as driverless trucks are nowhere near a reality in the foreseeable future.
John Niles of Harmonize Mobility added that he found it interesting all the talk surrounding autonomous trucks and cars considering in the U.S. trains have not even become autonomous due to labor issues.
“There are many barriers, twists and turns getting to (driverless vehicles),” said Niles, “if we get there at all.”
Driver assist technology, however, is a here now, and beneficial to the industry, according to Wood, who believes much of these new innovations should be mandated because they save lives and reduce collisions.
Asked about platooning, Wood said there is a lot of research currently happening and the technology is at the industry’s disposal, but the market has not bought in.
“We have a big and diverse industry, and keeping all these things on the menu is fine,” Wood said about platooning and if there is a place for mandating its use. “But we have to leave it up to the market on whether they want to use it.”
Wood said the industry has long adopted new technologies both because some have been mandated, like ELDs and emission controls, and because of individual preference, where it helps a business’ bottom line by providing a good return on investment.
The panel also discussed issues around connectivity and the potential a 5G network would provide to the idea of connected vehicles and a move toward full automation.
Eve Hue, project manager of new mobility for TransLink, said a 5G network is essential for connectivity and automation, which would ultimately make transportation safer and more personized.
She pointed out that statistics show 94% of vehicle collisions are related to human error.
Hue said the four disruptors of transportation – electrification, connectivity, automation, and ride sharing – all impact the industry, particularly when taking all into consideration.
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