We’ve come a long way from the era of Burt Reynold, Sally Field, and Jerry Reed delivering bootleg beer across state lines with the police in hot pursuit.
Joking aside, the concept of driverless long-haul trucks points to a significant application for autonomous vehicle technology. As anyone who has driven on a major interstate like I-80 can attest, the lines of long-haul trucks can stretch on for miles as they haul cargo of all sorts around the country. In this case, the test vehicle made the majority of its 120-mile delivery with an empty driver’s seat, only shifting to driver-managed operations when leaving the freeway. However, a driver was in the vehicle at all times as mandated by law but the truck operated autonomously for the majority of the trip.
Incorporating a level of autonomy in these vehicles, especially on the long, open stretches of freeway, heralds a significant potential boost in efficiency and safety for cargo delivery. All of this will need to be managed by an effective navigation system that incorporates multiple sensors (GPS, LIDAR, optical, inertial navigation systems (INS), etc.). But once it’s in place, it looks like Bandit, Froggy, and Snowman might be able to take a well-deserved break.