Commercial success of autonomous vehicles was bit like Berlin airport construction. Every year it was expected to happen in the next year. Look back, when my blog on this topic (in Slovak) went live. After several years of missed promises (mainly from Tesla), self-driving cars finally realized that they have been eating the cake from wrong side. Most of the showcases (and demo videos) for cars driving on their own focused on passenger cars. Sounds logical, as most of the cars in world are the personal ones. Or?
If you take few steps back, as much as you charm most of the population with making David Haselhoff’s K.I.T.T. dream come true, when it comes to commercial value (what would be people willing to pay for), most people are not ready to pay extra to replace them behind the steering wheel. However, segment where there IS somebody willing to pour money in for replacing the driver is TRUCK transport.
It makes whole much more sense, as the roots of many truck shipments are tedious round trips between two locations (e.g. from supplier to factory OR from warehouse to the store), which are easier to program and monitor. These shipments often can (or even have to) happen in the night, when there is less traffic on roads (and extras for night work of drivers apply). Also truck drivers drive many more kilometers per day than us, passenger car drivers. Robo-driver also does not have to take mandatory brakes, unlike his human counterpart, so the robo-truck can drive more km’s per day, too. Makes you almost think why all those years tesla was expected to be the pioneer of self-driving cars?
If you wonder “Why all of the sudden in 2021?”, there are few reasons that favor now from yester-<insert_your_time_unit_here>. The 2020 pandemic pushed so hard for e-commerce that demand for deliveries went through the roof. Second one is that it cumulatively took several years of “experience” to pass the necessary Prove-of-concepts, which one after another seem to be arriving at encouraging successes. Thirdly, due to large data flow between the self-driving car and its control center, operating large fleets of autonomous cars without 5G networks would be tricky. Therefore, (mass) autonomous car deployment needs to be cart of the 5G internet horse. Lately also Waymo, Nuro, Aurora (and other autonomous driving software providers) realized that driving goods off the road is better insurable and faces less regulation (and reputation hit) than killing human driver in autonomous muscle-car.
Yes, it is coming, there are already signed 2021 projects for cargo transport across US highways. The itching question is: What comes next? Taxis? Airport busses? Last-mile delivery robots? Probably all the above.
Publikované dňa 10. 1. 2021.