Safety, Productivity to Improve With Proliferation of Autonomous Trucks, Executives Say

ATLANTA — Advancements in the technology facilitating autonomous trucks will enhance safety and productivity across the freight sector, two executives helping to drive the issue said at the Connected Fleets USA conference Sept. 25.

“If we can automate those trucks, then essentially you’re going to double the amount of goods being transported around the country,” said Ken Ehrman, founder of New Jersey-based ID Systems, Inc. “That has significant implications for companies, specifically like Wal-Mart and Amazon. If they could move twice the stuff, they can do it at essentially half the cost.”


Ehrman, Hooper via

Ehrman and his wireless communications firm, and Rob Hooper, CEO of Atlantic Logistics, a third-party logistics firm, agreed economic incentives along with freight corridors that are able to accommodate longhaul trips increase the potential for the adoption of autonomous vehicles across the highway system.

The modern, autonomous trucks are expected to minimize driver fatigue, thus improving safety. And, the urban infrastructure requisite of vehicle-to-vehicle communication is not ready to accommodate self-driving cars across major cities, they explained.

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Eventually, several years after its adoption, the technology’s impact will prompt rapid adjustments within the trucking industry, Hooper argued.

“There’s going to be, I think, massive consolidation within the industry, within trucking, because now, all of a sudden, instead of managing drivers with some assets, you’re now managing assets,” Hooper said.

Executives from various industries are calling on federal policymakers to approve guidelines for autonomous vehicles. They also told U.S. senators during a recent hearing that as the technology evolves, drivers will continue to play a major role in the movement of goods.

American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear described the truckers’ role as a “driver-assist” approach, rather than a “driverless” marketplace for the commercial vehicle industry.

A senate panel is finalizing autonomous vehicle legislation, and it is expected to take up the measure in October. The House advanced its version focusing primarily on cars.