There has been alot of news reports on the development of the self driving car being designed by Google. This is very impressive technology and creative design that will make the roads safer for all drivers. But are cars the biggest problem on our roads? I live in North America’s fourth largest city and the demand on road space gets more competitive every day. It is not only cars that congest the city roads and highways, but the ever increasing truck traffic. As the North American economy expands out of this recession, this issue will only become more critical.
The growing number of vehicles, sharing the same limited road space is causing major traffic congestion on our cities and highways. Not only are we frustrated when snarled in this congestion, but there are significant economic and environmental costs to this problem. Traffic congestion increases costs for the shipment of all products we move from container ports to warehouses and distribution centers to retail stores. The environmental damage from the exhaust of millions of these slow moving cars and trucks pollute the air we breath and killing millions of people in North America every year. How can we fix the problem without building more roads and highways?
Why not design self driving trailers? Shipping containers could be off loaded onto autonomous vehicles at major ports and sent on their way across the country. You simply need a flat-bed with wheels, some electric motors and maybe a solar panel roof. I’m not the engineer here, I am just suggesting what might be possible. Include light weight and aerodynamic trailer design and some self driving technology and you have a self driving delivery truck.
These vehicles could even automatically pull-up behind one another like a road train to save on fuel. Autonomous trucks don’t get tired and therefore don’t need to stop for sleep. The on-board sensing devices and cameras can manage complex maneuvers in traffic and adapt to changing road conditions better and faster than a human driver. Weather forecast data, traffic conditions, road construction notices, delivery scheduling and boarder and custom reporting and clearance can all be managed and coordinated with the vehicle electronically. No human intervention required. This would make the major roadways safer and less congested for the rest of us.
Well it seems like the future of modern truck transportation is right around the corner. The modern semi-trailer is on its way to a road near you.
Japan is studying this in there New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) .
Volvo has the SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) project, and Mercedes Benz have developed and tested this technology.
Even Walmart has invested heavily in development and design partnerships to produce a vehicle it wants to use to replace all of the thousands of trucks it maintains on the roads across North America. The above images show the Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience or WAVE concept truck. It is designed to reduce transportation costs to its almost 8,000 retail locations across North America.
Am I missing anything or is this a great idea? Like the Google car, these changes will need new legislative policies for road use by automated vehicles and maybe some education programs to build acceptance from the general public. I’m looking forward to seeing these new vehicles in my travels and having more road space for myself, how about you?