Self-driving, long-haul trucks have the potential to cut the transport costs of manufacturers by 30% through 2040, consulting firm PwC said in a report.
However, there’s a major caveat. The figure assumes “aggressive adoption of autonomous trucking,” PwC said. “The question of whether workforces are prepared to embrace autonomous vehicles is another matter.”
Self-driving systems will “first assist, then replace, drivers and operators” in trucking, according to PwC said. Such jobs may be replaced by “a new generation of logistics technicians – not drivers/operators – to oversee the software and algorithms that may be in the proverbial driver’s seats of the future.”
The report was part of a survey PwC performed with the Manufacturing Institute (Washington).
The consulting company said a step toward driverless trucks is underway. So-called “platooning,” enables trucks to travel in convoys “tethered by vehicle-to-vehicle communications.” At present, PwC said, operators are still in the cab.
“Platooning could offer fuel savings via lowered wind drag on vehicles,” according to the report.
PwC cautioned that “mainstreamed use of fully autonomous long-haul trucks on our highways may be years – or even decades – off.”
Automakers and technology companies are developing self-driving vehicles. General Motors Co. (Detroit) has said it expects to deploy such vehicles in commercial fleets next year.
At the same time, makers of heavy vehicles also working with autonomous and driver-assisted technology. Caterpillar Inc. (Deerfield, IL) uses self-driving trucks at some mining operations. Deere & Co.’s John Deere (Moline, IL) has developed self-driving technology for tractors and other farm vehicles.