Chepko Danil - Fotolia
On-the-road vehicles are one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gases and pollution today.
While many manufacturers do not own and manage their own fleets, they can and should still be concerned with the environmental impact of their shipments and deliveries. As such, they are showing legitimate interest in the emergence of self-driving vehicles in the shipping supply chain and how these autonomous means of transportation can affect costs, timeliness and environmental impact.
Many believe that self-driving vehicles will lead to lower costs, faster and more reliable delivery, and lower pollution. These new efficiencies are expected to grow as the technology is introduced in a limited way, and then as it takes more control as it matures and new equipment takes over the roadways. Let's look at the likely evolution path.
The first self-driving tractor-trailer rigs will hit the roadways very soon -- likely in 2018. These first rigs will still have human drivers as a safety measure to take over the controls in congested areas where there is still some doubt about the reliability of self-driving technology, such as in areas with pedestrians and unreliable human-driven vehicles that don't always obey traffic rules or act predictably. The open road portion of the trip will likely be more efficient, reducing fuel consumption and the associated pollution.
As the technology matures and proves itself in use, driver rules will likely be relaxed, enabling vehicles to operate longer between mandatory rest cycles for the human monitors -- they won't really be drivers at this stage. More efficiency, less pollution and faster, more reliable delivery are the expected benefits of these self-driving vehicles.
As the final stage of development, delivery vehicles are predicted to become truly autonomous. At this point, vehicles will no longer need the seating and sleeping accommodations and the controls for the human driver, so the cab will be smaller and lighter, which, in turn, can enable more savings and less pollution. These advanced autonomous vehicles may also run on electricity, since this technology is evolving in parallel with the control systems. Electric vehicles emit far less pollution than gas or diesel vehicles.
More efficient routes and more efficient driving should reduce emissions substantially, even before electric vehicles become common.
Today's most important supply chain trends
How to use the internet of things in the supply chain
Research these logistics trends now
Company bets on AI virtual assistants in all cars
Dig Deeper on Supply chain planning and execution
Related Q&A from Dave Turbide
Fourth-party logistics build on the benefits third-party logistics offers. Learn more about how this services model can help create more efficient ... Continue Reading
Today's warehouses have different issues than the warehouses of yesteryear, so it's critical to understand the role technology serves. Here's a look. Continue Reading
Predicting demand has never been easy, but in the age of e-commerce and omnichannel, that difficulty has multiplied. Here is some helpful guidance ... Continue Reading