Autonomous vehicles serve as transport solutions in the supply chain. A twist on the way you get goods from A to B by removing or changing what a driver does in the equation.
For example, having a robot autonomously drive itself around is a very exciting idea, especially when you consider how mind-numbingly monotonous the Hume is between Melbourne and Sydney. Plus, you know all the other benefits like predictable performance, not having to pay as much in wages, not having to stop because of fatigue management rules. Robotic fleets really are the next step to enabling a truly round the clock operations.
But of course, there are issues, first, there are obvious ones like, can the technology actually work without killing anyone? Can the system handle other cars and kangaroos plus changing traffic conditions? I could also imagine some clever criminals finding a way to trick a truck, pull it over, and stealing everything inside...
Then once you get past all of that you have the same issues as you have today, just because a truck can drive itself, doesn’t mean it's going to magically find orders to fill itself with. Load management by fleet controllers is still going to be critical in making a fleet operate successfully.
Though… the job will be way cooler because you know as a controller, you’ll have an entire fleet of self-driving trucks at your command. It’s going to be like a videogame come to life.
Besides the big issues mentioned there also the problem of getting a huge piece of machinery to navigate a really complex environment like a city, which is full of even more cars, some kangaroos, and a lot of people walking around in their Instagrammed bubbles of existence. Personally, once you get into a city, I’d still like to know that a 60-tone piece of heavy machinery is being successfully navigated by a human.
I do believe, for the foreseeable future, that the programs which use a person to get out of the city, turn on the autopilot, then get a person involved again when they are arriving near the end point of the journey. These will be the most successful while the development work keeps pushing ahead (the dev work needed to match a robot’s ability to properly manage movement in public to as well as a human can).
This means commercial truck drivers will have a job, a more specialised job which focuses on the tricky part of their role. Think about the difficulty of reversing a truck or driving in traffic while being cut off by other drivers. These skills which people often forget about will be underlined like never before and will shine in the next generation while we are teaching our robots what is best practice.