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Can You Automate Truck Deliveries Without Human Contact?

– Contributed content –

Forklift truck


11 Oct. 2018. Nobody enjoys truck deliveries. For customers, who are stuck at home waiting for the delivery to occur – most couriers are unable to provide a detailed timeline or real-time itinerary of the vehicle – this is a long and painful experience. Similarly, drivers have their own criticism about being at the receiving end of complaints from customers or manufacturers who fail to understand that unexpected obstacles on the road might slow your journey down.

Besides, it’s fair to say that for those involved with a delivery truck, human contact can be overrated. From the perspective of the driver, the human contact they seek is the one from their friends and relatives – unfortunately, the journey takes them away from their loved ones. From the perspective of the customer, there’s no need for interaction; they only want to receive their parcel(s). In other words, when science asks how you can automate truck deliveries and reduce interactions, businesses tend to agree with the principles.

The technology exists already

In fact, it’s not the latest plot for your favorite sci-fi series. Self-driving trucks already exist. Researchers from Sweden have developed software inspired by animal biological behaviors in their environment to control crewless trucks. Similarly, other self-driving trucks are being tested, with Ford vans being trialed for food deliveries in the U.S. and Tesla and Uber running their first driverless vehicles trials – with varying levels of success. To put it simply, technology doesn’t represent any major challenges in creating a truck that doesn’t need a driver.

Challenges, however, do exist. As trucks are heavy vehicles that can cause serious damages to others and to the goods they transport, it’s essential to clarify some legal and practical points before making driverless commercial vehicles a reality.

But legally, nobody can ignore the risks

Ultimately, accidents can happen outside of the scenarios prepared and anticipated by software engineers. In fact, being injured in a crash by a truck is not an uncommon occurrence, with almost 12% of accidents involving a truck or a bus. The current tests and research have demonstrated that driverless vehicles are not completely safe – crashes with minor to fatal consequences have been linked to self-driving vehicles. In the eye of the law, the responsibilities for the accident is blurry. Currently, the truck could be found at fault, which would shift the responsibility to the company owning the truck. However, self-driving software developers and truck manufacturers are still exempt from blame for no good reason. As a result, an unmanned vehicle isn’t authorized in most commercial interaction.

What happens to the actual delivery?

Additionally, without a manned area, it is impossible to check that the delivery has landed safely. The available technology isn’t currently able to unload and review the merchandise without human intervention. Additionally, a truck that is controlled via software and online input could become a target for hackers, meaning that precious or potentially harmful items could easily disappear assuming a hacker finds their way into the truck control system.

Are driverless trucks the future? The current risks of an unmanned operation are too high to ignore. While this isn’t to say that future generations may not receive parcels from self-driving trucks, today’s market requires a driver to keep roads and customers safe.

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