Heads up, long-distance truck drivers. Your job could change or disappear in the next five to ten years. Trucks with no one at the steering wheel are coming down the pike. Louisiana’s regulations for autonomous commercial vehicles began on August 1. Self-driving laws are in effect in 29 states and the District of Columbia.
This spring, U.S. Postal Service trailers were hauled autonomously between Phoenix and Dallas in a project with San Diego-based TuSimple. A driverless truck operated by San Francisco-based Starsky Robotics delivered corn recently to Grand Prairie, near Dallas. Autonomous trucks have been highway tested in the Netherlands, other European nations and Singapore this year.
In a 2017 study for lawmakers, Louisiana State University civil engineering professor Chester Wilmot and doctoral student Marlon Greensword said autonomous trucks are harnessing technologies used in conventional vehicles. These include Light Detection and Ranging or LIDAR sensors, video cameras, GPS and broadband communications, along with computer processing, sensor fusion, and data interpretation. Autonomous trucks will encounter hurdles before entering the U.S. market, however, they said. Public trust, interaction with human-driven vehicles, image recognition and interpretation by sensing devices, liability in crashes and costs are some of the obstacles.