Automation of the operation of a vehicle is developing rapidly, especially in the passenger car segment, but also in heavier vehicles such as trucks, buses, trains and ships. There are several potential benefits with automation such as:
- More reliable – humans tend to cause errors
- Safer – humans are not very good drivers, especially when it comes to reaction time
- Cheaper – if a haulage company can remove the driver, a significant portion of the operating cost is eliminated. Also, an automated system can work longer time periods than humans.
Automation can be implemented gradually, often a 0-5 scale is used to classify the level (see table below, from Wikipedia).
When it comes to commercial vehicles, there are currently (2019) a few pilots running. Notable mentions are Einride, Volvo Vera and Daimler Inspiration.
Einride has developed the T-Pod, basically an AGV made for public roads. They aim at Level 4 where a remote control can take over when needed. Volvo has recently launched the Vera, an autonomous trailer tractor also Level 4. Daimler has developed the Inspiration truck where the driver can switch to autonomous mode.
There is also an intense debate on the ethical aspects of the technology. Some issues that are discussed are:
- Loss of jobs – will autonomous cars and trucks put people out of work?
- Liability/responsibility – if an accident occurs, who is responsible?
- Will lowered cost lead to more transportation?