There have been many experiments in recent years with driverless vehicles. Google has pushed the technology, and it has been in development and testing by Uber for driverless taxi services. In January of 2020 Uber brought self-driving vehicles to Washington DC.
But how does this translate to the logistics industry, and who are the players? Well, TuSimple is making progress and pushing the self-driving trucking and logistics industry in the US. They recently announced plans to build a driverless truck network coast to coast. The rollout schedule is over a 3 year period. They plan to increase their weekly freight runs to 93, from the current 50. They are moving loads for some big players, including UPS, who bought a stake in the company in 2019. TuSimple are also starting to look at the food industry teaming up with US largest food-distributor and supply chain network McLane Company Inc. TuSimple helped McLane address issues with driver shortages and operational expenses.
There are challenges, apart from the obvious safety concerns, Highway lanes need to be developed that are enabled for self driving trucks, and terminals created along the Los Angeles CA to Jacksonville FL corridor.
TuSimple currently operates a fleet of 40 self-driving vehicles along several routes. There is still a human operator on board who can take over if required. The plan is that sometime next year to begin piloting completely autonomous vehicles. Future development would see TuSimple taken nationwide in 2023 to 2024. There are certain challenges specific to self-driving trucks that make them more difficult than cars. Being larger, longer, heavier, increased stopping distances, the ability to plan ahead is imperative. An overview of the specific technology TuSimple uses is in the video below.
There are a lot of challenges ahead with the construction of the terminals, the lanes and the creation of routing maps that function like virtual computerized railroad tracks. TuSimple was founded in 2015 with the vision of improving efficiency and reducing the costs of long haul trucking. Through self-driving autonomous big rig trucks this can be achieved. Current human operators are bound by restrictions in number of driving hours, weekly mileages and so on, a self driving truck can run all day and night. This cuts costs, improves delivery times, and potentially can be safer.
When delivering produce in refrigerated vehicles, such as foodstuffs, without a driver on board, it is important to monitor the chilled storage compartment temperature. This is to ensure that produce is kept in the proper environment to avoid spoilage. AKCP provides cold chain and logistics monitoring solutions to ensure the integrity of the cargo, with graphing, data logging, live view and alerts.