Research Guides: The Trucking Industry: A Research Guide: Autonomous Trucking (2023)

Research Guides: The Trucking Industry: A Research Guide: Autonomous Trucking (1)

Trucking is the dominant mode of US inland freight transport; it amounts to billions of tons and is projected to continue to climb in the coming years.1

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The term autonomous trucks is applied to trucks that will be controlled from other sources such as satellites and advanced GPS (Global Positioning Systems), models currently on the road already provide a semi-autonomous mode of operation, in which the unmanned system and/or a human operator conduct a mission, have various levels of human-robot interaction. In the fully autonomous mode of operation, the unmanned system is expected to accomplish its mission, within a defined scope, without human intervention. In the teleoperation mode of operation, the human operator, using video feedback and/or other sensory feedback, either directly controls the actuators or assigns incremental goals, waypoints in mobility situations, on a continuous basis, from off the vehicle and via a tethered or radio linked control device. And, finally, in the remote control mode of operation, the human operator, without benefit of video or other sensory feedback, directly controls the actuators of the unmanned system on a continuous basis, from a location off the vehicle and via a tethered radio linked control device using visual line-of-sight cues.2

By 2027 fully autonomous trucks, including truck platoons of two or more trucks in which all trucks have a driver, but only the driver of the lead truck has full control of the vehicle, are anticipated to appear on highways.3 In spite of this transition, it is anticipated that the delivery of goods and services will be much the same as it has been for decades in the sense that drivers remain critical to the process.


There continues to be truck driver shortages with current estimates showing that there are approximately 50,000 qualified drivers short of what demand can handle.4 As drivers are leaving or retiring from the industry, there are efforts to recruit additional drivers. Replacement drivers are offered signing bonuses, higher pay and generous benefits packages to include college tuition. Other efforts include lowering the age to allow 18-21 year-olds to drive 80,000-pound rigs across the country. These proposals are projected to be successful.5 Overall, retention of truck drivers could improve if the long-haul portion of the route becomes self-driving, lessening time drivers spend away from home—a key reason long-haul drivers leave the profession, according to many stakeholders. As with the driverless scenario, many stakeholders believe future developments are so uncertain that they can not predict how automated trucking would affect various aspects of the workforce, such as wages or retention.6

Implementation of autonomous trucks is expected in ‘waves’ as technology improves and cost effectiveness is assessed. Despite the economic motivation, many in the trucking industry doubt whether driverless trucks are feasible in the foreseeable future given the current horizon of autonomous technology.7 As long as the technology used for autonomous vehicles faces additional challenges, it is anticipated that these obstacles will continue to promote innovation to ensure safer roads and compliance with Federal regulations. New materials, compact electronics, advances in telecommunications along with guidelines for emissions, fuel efficiency and safety will bring this industry to heightened levels of automation.8

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Although there is considerable interest and excitement surrounding highly automated vehicles (HAV’s), safety is the most important goal. For 2019, fatality estimates prepared by the National Safety Council are estimated to be at the 40,000 mark.9 Lastly, 94 percent of crashes can be tied to a human choice or error.10

The benefits don’t stop with safety. Innovations in this field have the potential to transform personal mobility and open doors to people and communities—people with disabilities, aging populations, communities where car ownership is prohibitively expensive, or those who prefer not to drive or own a car—that today have limited or impractical options. Cities will reconsider how space is utilized and how public transit is provided. Infrastructure capacity could be increased without pouring a single new truck load of concrete. HAVs may also have the potential to save energy and reduce air pollution from transportation through efficiency and by supporting vehicle electrification.11 Further, truck platooning reduces wind resistance, thereby saving fuel: around 10% for a following truck, 5% for the lead truck.12

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Research Guides: The Trucking Industry: A Research Guide: Autonomous Trucking? ›

By 2027 fully autonomous trucks, including truck platoons of two or more trucks in which all trucks have a driver, but only the driver of the lead truck has full control of the vehicle, are anticipated to appear on highways.

What is the prediction for autonomous trucking? ›

By 2027 fully autonomous trucks, including truck platoons of two or more trucks in which all trucks have a driver, but only the driver of the lead truck has full control of the vehicle, are anticipated to appear on highways.

What trucking companies are using autonomous trucks? ›

Top 5 Companies Making Self-Driving Trucks in 2022
  • Embark. Based in San Francisco, Embark aims to automate trucks on the highway, enabling local drivers to drop their loads off at rest stops and taking over for local deliveries, where traffic is more complex. ...
  • Daimler. ...
  • Einride. ...
  • Waymo. ...
  • Volvo. ...
  • Risks of Self-driving Trucks.
Sep 15, 2022

Will autonomous trucks replace drivers? ›

The short answer is no! The long answer is that the role of the truck driver may evolve as self-driving technology becomes the norm even if it doesn't disappear completely. As previously mentioned, even the highest levels of autonomous trucks will very likely still need drivers in place for safety reasons.

How far are we from autonomous trucking? ›

stand up “the first commercially operable truck port.” Kodiak has stated for some time now that their target for commercial introduction of their autonomous truck product is 2024. And just a few days ago Kodiak gave us a peek at 2025!

What is the forecast for trucking in 2023? ›

Will the trucking industry grow in 2023? Our forecast anticipates an imminent, shallow, and cyclical downturn in commercial vehicle equipment demand, even shallower than our prior forecasts.

What type of trucking is most in demand 2023? ›

Special car haulers transport luxury or high-end vehicles such as sports cars, classic cars and high-end SUVs. This niche requires specialized equipment and training to safely transport high-value and often fragile vehicles, making it a well-paying and in-demand niche.

Who is the leader in autonomous trucks? ›

The leader, Starship (I'm a shareholder) has now done over 4 million commercial, autonomous deliveries. Gatiks' sweet spot is medium sized trucks over a limited set of short routes, with trips in the range of 20 to 30 miles. The single short fixed routes are easier to develop for and certify.

What are the challenges of autonomous trucks? ›

Challenges with Self-Driving Trucks

Safety concerns: While autonomous technology has the potential to reduce accidents caused by human error, issues with sensors, software malfunctions, and other technical problems could potentially lead to accidents and other safety hazards.

What is the disadvantage of autonomous trucks? ›

The most obvious drawback is that hundreds of thousands of truck drivers could find themselves without jobs. This is a hotly contested subject, mostly by analysts who believe the self-driving truck industry will create more trucking jobs, not less.

How many states allow autonomous trucks? ›

Autonomous Semi Truck Platooning

At present, 14 of the 34 states that currently allow autonomous vehicle operation in some form also allow semi truck platooning. When it comes to autonomous platooning, most of the present laws only apply to active systems that still have drivers on board.

What can go wrong with autonomous vehicles? ›

Security issues. One of the potential cons about self-driving cars is the possibility of hacking. To have automated cars talk and coordinate with each other, they would need to share the same network protocol. If a large number of cars share the same network, however, they would be susceptible to a hack.

How many truckers would be affected by driverless trucks? ›

Autonomous trucks could one day replace more than 90% of all highway trucking, which could have a profound impact on as many as 500,000 long-haul truckers, a new study found.

What is the biggest trucking state? ›

Texas comes in at the top of the list with over 172,000 people employed as truck drivers. 15 of every 1000 jobs in Texas belongs to truckers. Texas has a reputation for being a major trucking industry epicenter and continues to increase its portion of the industry each year.

Is Walmart using driverless trucks? ›

Walmart and Silicon Valley start-up Gatik said that, since August, they've operated two autonomous box trucks, without a safety driver, on a 7-mile loop daily for 12 hours.

Who has the best autonomous driving system? ›

Car and rankingEase of useS-bend test
1. Tesla Model Y55
2. Audi RS Q854
3. BMW iX353
4. Nissan Qashqai44
6 more rows

How soon will autonomous trucks be available? ›

The American Trucking Associations trade group predicts the shortage will grow to 160,000 by 2030. Commercial "driver-out" operations for autonomous trucks are likely to start on select highway routes beginning in 2024, Volkmann says.

What is the forecast for autonomous vehicle volume? ›

The global autonomous vehicle market size was estimated USD 121.78 billion in 2022 and is projected to hit around USD 2,353.93 billion by 2032, poised to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 35% from 2023 to 2032. U.S. autonomous vehicle market was valued at USD 36.4 billion in 2022.

Will trucking ever be automated? ›

So, will autonomous vehicles replace truck drivers? The answer is no. Drivers are not going anywhere due to this new technology anytime in our lifetime or the next. The first railroad train was introduced in 1804 as a means to travel long distances with people and goods.

What is the trucking industry outlook for 2025? ›

Long-distance freight trucking in the U.S. is expected to have good growth through 2025, due to increased retail spending and rising trade volumes, which will increase shipments to and from U.S. ports that require trucking services.


1. How TuSimple Achieves Real Level 4 Autonomy for Semi-Trucks | Dr.Xiaodi Hou |TuSimple
2. The Truth About Self Driving Cars
(New Mind)
3. Leading the Change: Bringing Autonomous Trucks to Market Globally | TuSimple
4. Approaches for Improving Movement of Autonomous and Connected Trucks - 20/20 CCAT Global Symposium
(Center for Connected and Automated Transportation)
5. How is LiDAR remote sensing used for Autonomous vehicles?
(Geospatial World)
6. Your Guide to the Use of Autonomous Things in the Supply Chain
(GSI, Inc.)
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