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Supply Chain News: Lots of News in Self-Driving Truck Sector


Google Parent Jumping in Mix; Uber Kills Otto Brand among Legal Issues; Autonomous Trucks to Cause Massive Driver Job Losses, New Report Says

June 6, 2017
SCDigest Editorial Staff

It's been a busy few days relative to news on self-driving truck technology.

First, the Alphabet company's (parent of Google) self-driving car unit Waymo is also working on developing self-driving trucks, the company said last week according to Reuters.

Supply Chain Digest Says...

Automated trucks could reduce the demand for drivers by 50-70% in the US and Europe by 2030, with up to 4.4 million of the projected 6.4 million professional trucking jobs becoming redundant.

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Waymo, which is looking to expand its self-driving car efforts, expects autonomous vehicles to be able to take over longer distance trucking in the coming years, while allowing human drivers to handle local pickup and delivery routes.

"We're taking our eight years of experience in building self-driving hardware and software and conducting a technical exploration into how our technology can integrate into a truck," a Waymo spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters.

On the same story, a Waymo spokesperson told the BuzzFeed web site that. "Self-driving technology can transport people and things much more safely than we do today and reduce the thousands of trucking-related deaths each year. We're taking our eight years of experience in building self-driving hardware and software and conducting a technical exploration into how our technology can integrate into a truck."

Google began working on self-driving cars in 2009. It spun out its self-driving car program into a new company called Waymo in 2016, and earlier this year it announced it had been developing its own autonomous driving hardware. The company had not previously announced trucking efforts until last week, however.

Meanwhile, ride sharing giant Uber, which acquired self-driving truck start up Otto in July of 2016 with much fanfare, has quietly dropped the Otto name, in an effort to untangled itself from mounting legal troubles.

That change came as Uber fired Otto founder Anthony Levandowski, a former executive with Google's driverless division. He became head of Uber's autonomous division, which in October celebrated the 120-mile autonomous truck delivery in Colorado. However, Waymo, a spin-off from Google, filed suit, claiming that Levandowski stole confidential files and trade secrets.

What's more, the Otto name has recently been challenged in court by Clearpath Robotics, which already had a division called OTTO Motors. Uber has not said how if at all it will now brand its autonomous car and truck business.

Finally, a new report from the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA), the International Transport Workers' Federation and the International Road Transport Union (IRU), the road transport's industry's global body, predicts massive losses of driver jobs from autonomous trucks, which is likely to cause social upheaval in Europe and the US.

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"Automated trucks could reduce the demand for drivers by 50-70% in the US and Europe by 2030, with up to 4.4 million of the projected 6.4 million professional trucking jobs becoming redundant, according to one scenario," the report says.

Even if the rise of driverless truck dissuades newcomers from trucking, over two million drivers in the U.S. and Europe could be directly displaced, the report says.

But the report notes the tremendous cost savings such driverless trucks could deliver, with labor costs labor costs still accounting for 35 to 45% of the costs in the road haulage sector in Europe. Similarly, in the US, driver wages and benefits account for an estimated 35% of marginal (per mile) costs of freight operations. Of course not all of these labor costs would be eliminated by the adoption of driverless operations, as some driving and non-driving tasks would likely remain. However, even if half of these costs could be avoided through the introduction of driverless trucks to some supply chains, operating costs could be nearly 20% lower, the report finds.

And of course, the projected loss of jobs come in an era of driver shortages in both Europe and the US - a chronic problems autonomous trucks could obviously address.

But the gist of the report is that the impact on driver jobs could come too quickly, without enough time for social adjustment.

“The adoption of driverless trucks is likely to reduce demand for drivers at a faster rate than a supply shortage would emerge,” the report argues, also noting that relatively low education level of truck drivers and potential automation in other sectors puts them at a high risk of extended periods of unemployment.

The chart below from the report shows various scenarios for the percent of freight that would be moved by autonomous trucks in coming years - with the chart for example projecting that under a couple of scenarios virtually all long haul trucking would be performed with driverless vehicles by 2030, and more like half for urban deliveries by that time.



So what to do? The report says research and development in this area should continue, but recommends steps such as a joint industry-government advisory board to stay on top of the labor impact from the transition, as well as creation of a temporary permit system to manage the speed of adoption and to support a just transition for displaced drivers. In other words, autonomous trucks would continue to move forward, but at a metered rate.

The full, interesting report is available here: Managing the Transition to Driverless Roadfreight Transport


Any reactions to these stories relative to driverless trucks? How should the impact on jobs be handled?  Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.



Your Comments/Feedback


Manager, Doft, Inc.
Posted on: Jun, 06 2017
Seems before these trucks are launched, companies like Doft or Uber will disrupt the industry with their truck sharing apps. These apps will help the shippers to arrange the transportation much more effectively. And the self driving trucks can just lower the shortage of the truck drivers.



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