Thursday, May 28, 2015

Economy: In Praise Of Self-Driving Trucks

(Drivebycuriosity) - There is a lot ado about self-driving trucks. Some complain that truck drivers will lose their jobs which could damage the whole US economy (bloomberg ). I think the discussion underestimates the positive effects of self-driving trucks by far:

1. Streets will be much safer. I know from my own experience as a car driver, mostly on German streets but also on American and Italian roads, that trucks are often a danger. On the highways many truck drivers execute the "right of the strong" (German "Recht des Stärkeren") by changing lanes & overtaking recklessly. Often they drive way to fast, because they have a tight schedule or they want to be home soon. It is no wonder that traffic accidents are often caused by trucks - and often these accidents are really bad. As I lived in German I used to listen to the traffic reports on the radio. Frequently they reported that some Autobahn segments have been closed because of a truck accident.

Self-driving trucks don`t drive agressively, they don´t fall asleep while driving and they adapt their speed to the traffic situation. Computers cause way less accidents because they don´t make mistakes and they don´t behave unlawful. A computer needs just a nanosecond to respond to a surprising event (like a child on the street), much faster than a human brain. And with the assistance of sensors the computer can respond to the traffic situation (hydroplaning, ice, potholes) much better than a human driver. Less accidents mean less lost lives and save a lot of costs for the economy.

2. Self-driving truck are more efficient, because computers can calculate the optimum speed, track and driving rythm. Therefore they use less energy to go from place A to place B. Self-driving trucks will burn less Diesel which reduces the consumption of fossile energy and exhaust, dampening the greenhouse effect.

 3. Self-driving trucks will be much cheaper (saved trucker salaries, less mileage, less insurance costs thanks to fewer accidents). Automated vehicles will reduce transportation costs significantly, so everything which is transported on the road will be cheaper, especially food, lumber, gasoline and other goods where transportation costs are a high percentage of the whole costs. This could lift life standard of the low-income groups and expand existing markets.

I think that the advantages (saved lives, less traffic jams, cheaper goods, better environment) outweigh the disadvantages (lost trucker jobs) by far.  The positive effects could add up and could cause a stronger economy which might even create new jobs for the redundant truck drivers.

Welcome self-driving trucks.

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