Self-Driving Truck Completes First Delivery: Can It Replace Truckers?

Drivers take note — the future of trucking has hit the road.

The trucking industry reached a major milestone last week with the first commercial delivery made by a self-driving truck. The delivery was a collaboration between Otto, the Uber-owned company focused on autonomous vehicles, and beer powerhouse Anheuser-Busch, and saw Otto’s self-driving truck deliver 2,000 cases of Budweiser beer from Fort Collins, Colorado to Colorado Springs.

The Department of Transportation helped Otto plan the delivery, which included a driver to monitor the truck’s journey and take the wheel if necessary. And considering the driver didn’t have to step in, one could call the journey a bonafide success. Of course, that success could have a huge impact on the distribution, trucking and transportation industries.

What Is The DOT’s Policy On Autonomous Vehicles?

Companies like Uber, Tesla and Google have led the charge in designing autonomous vehicles — vehicles that can drive or pilot themselves. Otto’s self-driving truck is the latest success in the burgeoning industry, and the DOT has already taken some steps in developing policy targeted at self-driving vehicles.

Back in September, the DOT and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the first set of government guidelines tackling self-driving vehicles. According to Anthony R. Foxx, the Secretary of Transportation, the new guidelines “establish a foundation and a framework upon which future governmental action will occur.” The detailed government policy includes a 15-point safety assessment that manufacturers should consider when engineering their creations. It also takes into consideration both local and federal laws on emerging self-driving technologies.

The future of self-driving trucks and other vehicles remains uncertain, though it appears that the DOT and NHTSA won’t stop manufacturers from developing new autonomous vehicle technologies.

Will The Self-Driving Truck Replace Truckers?

As the Los Angeles Times notes, there are 1.7 million truckers in the U.S. alone, and self-driving trucks could replace their jobs within the next decade. Experts suspect trucking jobs will be the first to be replaced by self-driving vehicles, as most big rigs travel along long stretches of highways and interstates that can be easily traversed by the advanced technologies of driverless trucks.

But as Otto’s recent experiment shows, drivers may not be out of the equation so soon. Driverless cars have a pretty significant chance of malfunctioning, and who better to take the wheel in such a dangerous situation than a professional driver? There’s also the question of how deliveries or passenger pick-ups/drop-offs will take place sans driver. A driverless vehicle might be able to get goods and people from Point A to Point B, but it could prove more challenging to replace people when it comes to other aspects of the transportation, trucking and delivery industries.

The first successful commercial delivery by a self-driving truck is a major accomplishment, but autonomous vehicles won’t replace their traditional counterparts any time soon. Thankfully, New Era Drug Testing is here to help your business with all your DOT drug and alcohol testing needs, ensuring that your drivers hit the road with safety in mind.