Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms have been transforming industries in all sectors, including commercial trucking. You may have seen some of this new technology in commercials or when browsing the internet. Some of this technology exists to make trucks safer and save money, while other aspects are designed to catch mechanical problems before they occur.
Although it’s not mainstream yet, it’s only a matter of time before the following technologies become standard in the commercial trucking industry.
1. Self-driving technology
You’ve probably heard of self-driving passenger vehicles launched by companies like Google and Uber. Although this technology got a rocky start with several accidents and fatalities, the technology is continually improving.
Improvements are important because now autonomous vehicle software is being tested in semi-trucks and semi-trailers. However, it will be a while before we see many self-driving semis on the road.
This technology needs to become much safer before it goes mainstream. Commercial trucks are much larger and heavier than passenger vehicles, making accidents involving large trucks more likely to result in a fatality.
Even when this technology become safer, the cost will likely be prohibitive for many commercial trucking companies. Although, some companies will buy or lease one autonomous truck to test it out and see if the benefits are worth the cost.
To make it more affordable, these companies will likely opt to save money in every way they can. For instance, they’ll probably import their used semi-trucks from Canada to offset the high cost of any new technology they acquire.
It’s hard to imagine highways full of self-driving commercial trucks, but once safety has been established, it’s a possible and likely future scenario.
2. AI-powered logistics software
Supply chain issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic caused companies to lose millions of dollars and logistics operations were greatly disrupted. There were truck driver shortages, supply chain shortages, stranded containers, and intense weather events that all had a major impact on the industry’s ability to transport goods.
Although typical supply chain and logistics issues existed before the pandemic, the severity of the disruptions was bigger than companies were prepared to handle.
Software will help the industry grow
The use of AI in the transportation industry is expected to reach $10.3 billion by 2030. That would explain why so many startups are launching software designed to save money and time while supporting a smooth logistics experience. This includes everything from warehouse management and supply chain planning to predictive maintenance and route optimization.
For instance, VentureBeat recently discussed these startups including Loadsmart, 7bridges, NextBillion, Flowspace, and several more. These companies are all using AI-powered software to smooth out aspects of the supply chain, including last-mile delivery, shipping, and fulfillment.
Some of these software programs automate repetitive processes, while others use AI to predict issues and help with decision-making. This is a huge transformation in the industry, where logistics can be extremely inefficient. That’s not entirely anyone’s fault, since older technology can’t keep up with the complexities of the industry’s current needs.
To meet the current complex needs in the industry, AI-powered software is a necessity. Although, software alone won’t solve every logistics problem. Companies still need to hire great staff members, collect and monitor accurate data, and be willing to change with the times.
3. Active driver assist technology
Just like some passenger vehicles come equipped with technology that alerts the driver when they’ve crossed a lane, some semi-trucks are being fitted with this same technology. Volvo, a well-known leader in truck manufacturing, produces a line of commercial trucks that have the same driver assist technology as their passenger vehicles.
These new Volvo semi-trucks have a radar sensor in the front bumper that continually monitors for metallic objects that move in the same direction as the truck. This radar has a range of 500 feet and is designed to help trucks avoid existing accidents and/or cars that are stopped in the middle of the road.
Not everything can be detected with the radar, so there’s a camera with a 42-degree view mounted to the windshield. Anytime there’s a potential issue, the truck driver is notified by visual and audible alerts in the cab. For example, if the software thinks a collision is imminent, it projects a red line onto the windshield to visually alert the driver quickly. This red line also appears when the sensors detect something in the driver’s blind spot.
Commercial trucks are slow to adopt new technology
Although commercial trucks are beginning to be equipped with new technology, adaptation has been slow, likely because of the cost. Eventually, the cost will go down, but until then, high-tech and autonomous semi-trucks will remain rare.