Computers driving trucks. It sounds fanciful, and if it ever happens, I guess I’ll hand in my license and get off the road; it might be safer. Yet that is what is in store for the future. Fortunately, we’re not talking about full-time truck driving computers (although that will be next, you watch).
A recent news story on GizMag.com took a look at virtual co-drivers. Modern trucks already have the start of this technology – GPS with back-to-base technology connects fleet managers with drivers in real time. They can communicate problems, particularly with road congestion and issue navigation alternatives to drivers.
Virtual co-drivers would do a similar job, however, they are also designed to ‘take over’ from a driver should they become incapacitated – for example, falling asleep at the wheel. I don’t know which is scarier, a driver falling asleep or a computer driving the truck! I won’t take a totally negative tact on virtual drivers. After all, they do have their place. Providing constant feedback on traffic and weather conditions is an important factor for today’s truck drivers.
It will also be interesting to see how this technology becomes incorporated into hybrid engine trucks. Virtual drivers should be able to optimize how and when the different components of a hybrid engine work together. Better fuel consumption and longer lasting engines will be one real benefit to both owners and drivers.
Truck driving is forever changing. Over the last 100 years we have seen the use of power steering, synchronized gear boxes, two-way radios, GPS and even climate control for the drivers. Right now, it’s a human who is in control of a truck, and that human still requires truck driver training and testing before they can gain a commercial drivers license to work as a truck driver. If technology can make a truck driver’s job easier – bring it on. Somehow, I can’t see technology taking over from truck drivers.