Self-Driving Haulage Trucks
Uber has swept the nation since 2011 when the company’s international expansion phase began. Since then we have seen the Uber driver cause numerous problems for the traditional taxi driver, especially in the capital city of London, where the telegraph reported that a one mile journey in an Uber can be “almost one and a half times cheaper than taking a black cab”.
Now, we see Uber progressing onto Tesla territory, which may see it threaten the haulage industry.
Indeed, Uber is currently funding millions of pounds into the development of self-driving trucks in order to not only establish a presence in the long-haul freight transportation industry, but to dominate it.
Uber recently purchased a company called Otto, who worked on developing and manufacturing technology to retrofit existing trucks with new technology that will allow them to become completely autonomous.
This means not only can we envisage a future with self-driving taxis, but also one where long-haul freight transportation is also managed without the need of human drivers.
Currently, the trucking industry is worth approx. $7 billion, this opens up the potential for extreme expansion for Uber if they can successfully develop the self-driving truck.
Otto co-founder Lior Ron told Reuters that the company was in the process of establishing connections with independent truckers, and plans increase its current fleet of vehicles two-fold, totalling 15.
Uber even has a number of prototype test trucks already built and working. The trucks can successfully operate autonomously on large highways, but currently have two backup drivers in the truck in case of a technological failure of some kind. Indeed, although large strides have been made, Uber state that the project still has a while to go before it is fully operational, but remains hopefully that the testing phase will be complete within a few years.
Uber are not only looking to save costs by reducing the need for human drivers, but also but innovating navigation software to enable more consistent and accurate tracking, meaning that longer journeys will be quicker and more efficient, and in turn, cheaper. .
So, the future is uncertain not only for haulage drivers, but also for the industries brokers. As the company expands, it hopes to replace brokers with technology that can communicate directly with a manufacturer and the buyer, meaning that the middlemen who currently connect fleets with shippers may no longer be required.
And so we end with this quote from Lior Ron, who explores the huge potential in the haulage market for a faster, more efficient and cheaper service:
“In Uber, you press a button and an Uber shows up after three minutes…In freight… the golden standard is that it takes [the broker] five hours of phone calls to find your truck. That’s how efficient the industry is today.”