By Vincent Valdez, Vice President of Commercial Vehicle Services, Conduent

Vincent Valdez

An autonomous truck made its first delivery recently, transporting 50,000 cans of beer approximately 120 miles across the state of Colorado. The trucker was able to leave the driver’s seat and read the paper in the cab while the truck took over the driving. If you haven’t seen the video yet, you’ve got to watch it here via an article in AutoWeek.

There are approximately 3.5 million trucking jobs in the United States. How will autonomous vehicles change the trucking industry as we know it?

If you go by the conversations at trade shows, most of the folks in the trucking industry see connected and autonomous vehicles coming sooner rather than later. But completely unattended vehicles will likely happen later rather than sooner. In other words, the need to have someone in the vehicle who can take control or ensure the security of freight will still be there, even as vehicles with autonomous technology become more prevalent.

Instead, we like to think of the potential for autonomous technology to lighten the actual driving workload for the driver, potentially allowing more rest — and with that, longer work days beyond current regulation limits. For trucking companies, this can translate into increased efficiencies as drivers work longer thanks to technology as well as relaxed federal regulations on workday limits.

Companies are likely to see a incremental approach to introducing unattended vehicle technology, maybe starting with those delivery routes where pickup and delivery locations are located right off rural highway exits (in other words, a best case scenario for autonomous driving and freight security.)

Truck drivers on the other hand would most likely have a different opinion. They see the technological progress and wonder how soon it will be before it affects them. It’s not much different from taxi drivers looking at Uber’s test of autonomous vehicles  in Pittsburgh and wondering how much longer they will be needed.

With advancements in vehicle technology happening at such a rapid pace, one thing is for sure: the driving atmosphere 10 years from now is going to look very, very different.

How do you envision the future of the trucking industry? Leave us a comment below or connect with us on Twitter at @ConduentTranspo .