PHOENIX, Az. – If ‘ELDs’ was the most common phase uttered during Omnitracs Outlook 2017, ‘autonomous’ was a close second.
But while most believed the timing for driverless trucks rolling down North American highways was close, some find the notion more difficult to grasp.
“The path to self-driving trucks is probably sooner than people think,” said Wes Mays, director of OEM solutions for Omnitracs.
Mays picked up where the conference’s opening keynote addresses left off, touching upon some important factors when it comes to autonomous technology, including his opinion that the year 2025 would mark the start of autonomous trucks on the road, and by 2030 the practice would be considered commonplace.
“Improving road safety is not about any one item,” said Mays. “The car of tomorrow will be vastly different than anything we can think of today.”
Mays highlighted several of the technological advances that have been introduced to trucks over the past several years, starting with power brakes and steering, and progressing to automatic transmissions, blind spot detection, stability control, lane departure warnings, collision warnings, active steering and braking, platooning and autonomous.
Mays said several next generation vision technologies were already changing the trucking landscape, such as video recognition for real-time posted road speeds, street sign and light violations and yield/merge violations. Products that warn of tailgating, lane change, backing truck/trailer and vehicle passing prognostics only add to the multitude of advancements toward a fully-autonomous reality.
But for autonomous to work, Mays said precise vehicle communication was necessary, and for that to happen with the accuracy required, there was a need for what is called dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), which is used for wireless communication, specifically designed for automotive use.
“We need that DSRC system dedicated for traffic safety,” Mays said.
Mays told attendees of the Outlook 2017 breakout session that when fully-autonomous trucks come to fruition, to try and imagine a day when driving on the highway is so safe that a fatal collision is considered a homicide.
For some, this is difficult to envision in 2017. Many have voiced regulatory barriers and public acceptance as roadblocks to the idea of driverless trucks.
But others urge the public to be prepared, because it’s much closer than they think.
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