My son, Del has a commercial drivers license. He has a local route. He loves the job. He picks up loads of everything from shoes to tires. He maneuvers though traffic on both the freeway and back roads and expertly parks any semi in some teeny tiny places. He talks to dispatchers and the workers on the docks. He loves his job. One day in the next ten to fifteen years that job will probably disappear . . . perhaps sooner. Those people he meets and deals with on a daily basis will probably all retire or be laid off within that near future, also.
AI (Artificial Intelligence) and robotics will combine with new all-electric vehicles, batteries, and technology to eliminate the need for drivers . . . and don’t require a “pee” test.
Conor Dougherty writing for the New York Times in the November 13th article “Self-Driving Trucks May Be Closer Than They Appear” says “Trucks will someday drive themselves out of warehouses and cruise down freeways without the aid of humans or even a driver’s cab — about that there seems little disagreement. The question is how soon that day gets here. And while the answers vary — technologists, not surprisingly, are more bullish than truckers — billions of dollars and a growing parade of companies, from tiny start-ups to the country’s biggest trucking operations, are betting it will be here sooner than most people think.”
Sooner came just three days later when Tesla unveiled its new electric truck. Tesla claims its Semi “is more responsive, covers more miles than a diesel truck in the same amount of time, and more safely integrates with passenger car traffic.” The truck is all electric, so needs no clutch or gears. It still uses a driver, but probably that job won’t last for every long.
Tesla began taking orders and announced Thursday evening that a Michigan-based grocery chain ordered four Semis with a deposit of $5,000 each. Tesla says, “If you order now, you get your truck in 2 years.” The grocery fleet manager revealed that “Electricity is cheaper fuel than diesel, and you are less dependent on the spot-pricing of fossil fuel.”
“Tesla says that in autonomous convoys, moving freight using its new Tesla Semis would cost less than using railroads. Convoys would consist of a lead Semi with several others following autonomously. “This beats rail,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said at an event Thursday.
These new trucks have a 500 mile battery range. They can recharge for another 400 miles in only thirty minutes. The new Semi can go from zero to 60 miles in five seconds without a trailer. Loaded the Semi would take a little longer, but not much. Hauling 80,000 pounds of cargo it could do zero to sixty in 20 seconds.
You can stand up in the cab and the driver sits in the middle for better visibility and has two video screens to help in driving through weather and traffic.
Just as the Tesla electric cars stirred up the car market (most manufacturers are promising all electric vehicles within two to three years) Tesla Semis will create havoc in the transportation arena for the next decade.