Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Plus A Driver

Being able to drive unassisted for big chunks of highway driving is neat, and maybe of some value, but it's hardly a revolution.

Uber’s big push to dominate the trucking industry took a leap forward today with the announcement that the ride-hailing giant is now operating its fleet of self-driving trucks on its freight-hauling app. The shipments are taking place in Arizona, where the ride-hailing giant is also testing out its robot taxis. Uber said it is using a transfer hub model, in which the trucks drive autonomously on the highway and human drivers take over for the last miles.

The trailer is transferred to the self-driving truck, which then drives autonomously for the long-haul, highway portion of the trip — including a safety driver behind the wheel. Near the destination, the self-driving truck exits the highway and takes the load to a second transfer hub. A second driver in a conventional truck picks up the trailer and provides the short haul for delivery to the final destination. That driver just dropped off a different load at the same hub before receiving the autonomous truck delivery.

Anyway, this is the point I keep trying to make. To the extent that the technology works it'll be more neat than useful or efficiency enhancing (cost reducing). Might be a bit! Just not that much. You still have a "safety driver" and an additional coordination issue with the transfer hubs (transfer hubs already exist but not for precisely this purpose generally).