How Google Will Enter in the Trucking Industry
With all recent advances in algorithms and a big push from DARPA the the vehicles that do not require a human driver are here.The reason that you cannot see them on the road yet is because the other people and the legislative body did not catch up with the new technology. For now just a couple of states allow these vehicles on the road legally. The question is what will happen when the laws catch up ,and the technology is mature and reliable enough to be used every day.
America is a very big country and it has a big road infrastructure to support the population and the businesses. Coming with that, is a big fleet of trucks that require drivers , schedule , laws to govern the drivers, and human problems and limitations that come with that.
Usually the drivers are allowed to drive a certain number of hours then they have to rest a certain number of hours. Imagine what kind of scheduling is required for a shipping company such as UPS or FedEx to accommodate all those conditions.
It would be much more easier if the trucks could work 24 hours a day 7 days a week without interruption .Then the whole process would be more efficient and probably the
mail could arrive faster to destination. Think about how many times you tracked your packet a few times a day to determine where it is. Now think about the ability to track the mail in real time.
Imagine a box that is shipped from LA destined to New York today would need up to 5 days to arrive using ground shipping, but it would need maybe 2 or 3 days to a completely automated truck to do the same route, because there will be almost no stops for rest or bathroom. Probably the only stops will be the gas stops.
Once the laws are in place ,the adoption of autonomous trucks would be fast.
Probably for the beginning they would be allowed to use only the highway and some areas of the normal roads. Even today the Google cars drove already more than a few hundred thousand miles without a problem , and the algorithms that drive the car will become only better , safer and faster.
The bad side of this adoption is that less drivers will be needed. Usually drivers earn more for the long haul exactly the situation that the autonomous trucks will be used for. Drivers have their own subculture , with their own language . They spend a lot of time alone in their cabin , sleeping in the truck and eating along the highway, talking to other drivers , dodging the police, dreaming. This job is relatively well payed for the level of education education required for it.
It only requires a professional driver license that can be obtained relatively easy.
The pay grade could be compared with some branches of IT , or some nurses.
The downside is that you spend a lot of time from home.
Being relatively good payed it attracts a lot of peoples with different backgrounds, immigrants that can barely speak English, people that are looking for adventure.
All this will change sooner or later. A data center maybe similar with what Google uses today for their search engine will track and monitor all the trucks that they own.
The routes will be optimized to weather , road condition , road traffic and recalculate on the fly and without any human intervention the truck route, and also the arrival time.
The truck is probably going to be smaller because it does not have to accommodate a driver and also it will be more fuel efficient.It will not need heat or air conditioning for the driver. It will be filled with a couple of computer racks and a bunch of sensors to help with obstacle avoidance, navigation .
Google has an advantage and is years ahead in this field. It could license the technology or it could build its own modules and sell those tho the trucking makers. This is in case Google will do all this. Only the future will tell