Artificial intelligence (AI) has brought is so many amazing things over the past few years, especially in terms of motoring. First self-driving cars and now self-driving trucks. Self-driving trucks have been talked about for a while now, but you don’t really see or hear that much about them do you? Well, that may be about to change thanks to the likes of logistics giant DHL.
A fleet of AI autonomous delivery trucks will be tested by DHL next year that will include small StreetScooter electric vans. Eventually the company want to be using autonomous Class 8 semi-trucks, but that won’t be for some time yet. There are many advantages of autonomous vehicles, particularly when it comes to delivery services. They will use less fuel, be able to operate for longer periods at a time without the need for a break, and they don’t need paying. Bill Meahl, DHL Chief Commercial Officer, said it could also help with driver shortages.
To begin with the AI truck won’t be completely driverless, confirmed Meahl. He said what’s more likely to be the case is that there will be an autopilot system on board that will do most of the work, but will have a driver on standby to take over any more tricky maneuvers. Meahl also predicts that autonomous driving technology will enable firms to put platooning practices in place. This is where several trucks ride in a convoy close together in such a formation that that allows them to exploit aerodynamics and save fuel.
This method will be tested next year by DHL in the U.K. Testing will involve seeing the principle driver controlling both the braking and acceleration of the trucks following behind while those trucks will just control the steering. Daimler too is testing this technology in trucks, but over in the U.S.
“Given both the technological and regulatory challenges, at this stage we think a fully-autonomous future is likely further away than some think,” said Meahl. “Artificial intelligence may never supplant human intelligence”, when it comes to trucks. While it’s clear that DHL is preparing for a future that’s centered around AI and autonomous vehicles, it’s not panicking that it’s suddenly here and needs to act fast. Like Meahl said, there’s still a way to go before the world goes fully autonomous.