Natural Progression: Evolution of Roads and Self-driving Trucks

You’ve heard of self-driving automobiles. In 2009, with some of the world’s largest corporations hot on its wheels, Google kicked off the race to capitalize on this fast-emerging technology. The question is no longer whether we’ll see these machines on the road — rather, what will the world of self-driven automobiles look like?

Machines perform well at repetitive jobs with low deviation. However, current technology struggles to find spot solutions for problems that haven’t been pre-programmed. For safety reasons, accounting for spot solutions is a crucial step before the technology can truly be commercialized. And if we consider the challenges posed by infrastructure, you’ll find that heavily populated cities have an exponentially higher deviation than open highways.

Here’s a potential solution: driverless trucks operating on open highways, truck stop to truck stop. Meanwhile, city driving, pickups, and deliveries are all employed by local drivers.

This solution accounts for multiple hurdles:

  1. Leaves tactical city driving to humans and reduces engineering required for spot solutions.
  2. Eliminates foundational changes required to handle driverless trucks at pickup and delivery locations.
  3. Refueling/recharging would require no additional engineering.
  4. Drivers get to stay local — you can work closer to home.

Of course, challenges such as road conditions, weather patterns, and traffic levels still persist.

Over the next ten to twenty years, fleets of test commercial vehicles will also begin to travel outside cities and states where they are already visible — states like CA, MI, TX, and PA. Though even with advances in automated car technology, at what pace will motorists — and the insurance industry — adapt to and adopt said technology?