The advent of self-driving technology has been a key component boosting the progress of the autonomous truck market – a thriving offshoot of the global automotive industry. Rising investments towards technological development in order to optimize the driving experience have also shaped the autonomous trucking landscape substantially. Furthermore, mounting awareness pertaining to potential applications of self-driving trucks in various industry verticals, particularly in the logistics sphere, has supplemented autonomous truck market penetration.
Self-driving could significantly improve the efficiency of the trucking space. With companies needing to transport more and more cargo each day, autonomous trucking promises more freight transport with the same or even lower number of human drivers. Some other benefits offered by these trucks include easy travel during off-peak hours, reduced traffic congestion during the busiest hours of the day, no need for rest stops like in the case of human drivers, and fewer occurrences of drunk driving truck accidents.
Autonomous trucks also promise improved safety since they have lesser chances of crashing. As they have sophisticated sensors that can alert about any problems on the road in advance, these trucks are less accident-prone. Driven by these benefits, the autonomous truck market size is projected to be valued at more than USD 2.5 billion by 2028, according to a report by Global Market Insights Inc. Here’s a look at some opportunities that the industry is set to encounter over the forecast period and how market participants are leveraging the same.
Opportunities for growth in the logistics sector
Autonomous trucks have found extensive applications in various sectors owing to their wide-ranging benefits. Following are some factors that are propelling autonomous truck market growth:
1. Improving technological landscape
Manufacturers in the sector have been focusing on technological integration and advancements to enhance product performance. For instance, in December 2021, TuSimple, Inc., an autonomous trucking startup, completed its first autonomous run on open public roads without a human driver present in the vehicle.
This ride was supported by the company’s Autonomous Driving System (ADS) technology and marked a milestone for the firm in its aim to scale its tech into purpose-built trucks by the year 2024. Increased significance of advanced technologies in ensuring safer rides is positively impacting the technological landscape of the autonomous truck market.
2. Addressing driver shortage
Long-haul trucking has a massive shortage of drivers since it can be challenging work for truckers to drive eleven hours a day and staying on the road for extended periods of time. Since it poses adverse effects on driver health, the sector has witnessed a considerable driver shortage.
Even though self-driving trucks would focus on highway routes primarily, there would still be a need for drivers in first-mile pickups as well as last-mile deliveries in complex urban environments. These jobs would also be more appealing to drivers who stay in the profession but cannot keep up with the lifestyle. When this system is established properly by manufacturers, the industry would be better for employees.
3. Optimizing freight transport
Following the COVID-19 outbreak, there was clear indication of the human operator being the most vulnerable part of supply chain logistics. Even in optimal conditions, human beings showcase high variability in performance, constraining logistics scheduling.
In effect, the rising prominence of advanced automation in logistics to mitigate pandemic-induced issues has bolstered the requirement for continuous R&D efforts, along with the surging focus of autonomous truck companies on implementing effective strategies, to foresee and prepare for such health emergencies.
To cite an instance, in April 2022, Kodiak Robotics, a key manufacturer in the self-driving truck market, joined forces with one of the largest carrier fleets in America, US Xpress, to start Level 4 autonomous freight service between Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth. The partnership leveraged Kodiak’s self-driving trucks, marking the first commercial autonomous trucking road to the East Coast.
4. Lower maintenance cost
Lastly, self-driving trucks could potentially have lower maintenance and fuel costs. They are programmed to adhere to the speed limit, which is also fuel-saving.
Moreover, autonomous trucks are designed to follow optimum driving practices, which can prevent reckless driving. These factors result in lower maintenance costs, which has created massive growth potential for autonomous truck industry expansion.
How would these opportunities fare for autonomous truck companies?
Of all these opportunities, the biggest one seems to lie in manufacturers’ abilities to conceive and realize the potential use of self-driving trucks in diverse industries. Thus, industry giants would need to go beyond improving transportation safety, which remains a major driving force for the development of the self-driving cars and trucks market, to capitalize on the scope of application of the tech in other industries.
Presently, companies have been riding the e-commerce boom or investing in the adoption of autonomous and semi-autonomous trucks in the driverless delivery space, which has created a niche for more competitors to enter. To that effect, increasing investments in broadening the applicability of self-driving trucks are slated to drive the growth of companies in the autonomous truck industry in the forthcoming years.