Embracing the Inevitable Changes of Self-Driving Vehicles


(Page 2 of 2)

interact seamlessly with a multitude of other systems in order to ensure safety, productivity, and practicality. To be safe, they must consider the edge cases as well as the basics of forward movement.

Driver Considerations

The trucking industry has long faced a shortage of qualified drivers. This coupled with extremely high driver turnover—74 percent as of July 2017—continues to pressure the economics of our supply chain, and neither challenge is on the brink of resolution. Notwithstanding these issues, businesses still need to transport goods and services to the final destination, thus establishing a tangible motivation for the sector’s substantial interest in autonomous vehicles. “Driverless” trucks have the potential to meet a strong economic need.

While the business need is clear, it is less apparent what role, if any, the commercial driver will play in future scenarios. I predict that the roles and responsibilities of drivers will change. I propose that today’s drivers will become system operators in the autonomous vehicles, and today’s operators will become knowledge workers. The evolution of these roles suggests an economic benefit, with workers taking on increasingly skilled roles and potentially earning higher wages.

In commercial trucking, it’s also crucial to consider the last mile of a delivery route. Getting from Point A to Point B along a relatively straight stretch of highway is only part of the equation. We need to consider what happens when a truck is approaching its final destination. How would the vehicle—and its freight—access the loading dock, delivery bay, or even a residence?  One can envision that today’s truck drivers and transportation managers will move into positions that involve communications, scheduling, and condition assessment—creating a perfect opportunity to learn new skills and maintain relevance in this changing shipping landscape.

Self-driving vehicles will impact our world. With less human intervention and decision-making, our roads should be safer. Companies will benefit from better efficiency. And our environment will be cleaner due to less fuel being consumed. But society needs to be ready to embrace the change.

It’s already starting. Uber and Lyft have brought untrained drivers into a community that was previously bound by commercial licensing and regulatory requirements. Similarly, commercial vehicle operators may someday not need a commercial driver’s license to operate a vehicle. But they may need training in other capacities, such as representing a brand or enabling a service as they unload and install appliances or technology in someone’s home or office.

Transportation Intelligence and Context

No matter how much change occurs in the march toward autonomous vehicles, the one constant is the need for context. Road-facing and cab-facing video provides that essential piece of data and understanding, delivering an objective measurement and the context for every aspect of the operating environment. It provides critical evidence to know how a vehicle is being driven, along with every operational mode involved in controlling the vehicle. How is the vehicle managing the connection between all aspects it’s interacting with—people, bus stops, warehouses, other vehicles, etc.?

It’s also imperative to have the transportation intelligence that results from the real-time video and vehicle data. Data not only informs policy, but the connected city, by providing information that may not have been previously available. It informs the interaction between vehicles, pedestrians and intersections, while also providing vehicle status, location and direction. With the insight that results from video data, you will know if a vehicle is going to be on-time, is speeding, or has been involved in a collision.

We are inevitably moving toward an autonomous world. It’s no longer a matter of if it will happen, but when. Drivers, passengers, and pedestrians will all be affected. So rather than fight it, let’s embrace it, and tap the power of intelligent data and analytics to optimize the emerging transportation realities.

Single PageCurrently on Page: 1 2 previous page

Steve Mitgang is the CEO of SmartDrive Systems, a San Diego-based technology company that provides video analysis, transportation intelligence, and other services used by commercial fleets. Follow @

Trending on Xconomy