Self-driving vehicles are on their way: When we talk about autonomous driving, the first thing that comes to mind are driverless cars and the advantages/safety/moral challenges that surround them. Some of us imagine a future in which we will all work, eat, sleep in our new cars while they drive us to our destination. Others are concerned about the safety of driverless vehicles.
Big companies are investing more and more in R & D
But self-driving trucks are also part of the equation, and the effort put into the automation of delivery vehicles is as important as for cars. Companies like Uber, Google and Tesla are investing millions in self-driving technologies to build trucks that could drive for longer shifts, whilst allowing the drivers to rest during the drive and reduce the number of truck-related accidents.
The challenges for navigation providers
As far as navigation is concerned, the development of autonomous or semi-autonomous trucks represents a challenge as well as an opportunity.
A crucial point for our industry is that GPS data (exact location, timing, etc) will have to be even more accurate to cover for the lack of driver in case of a detour or problem on the roads. Any geolocation problem could result in damages and an immediate danger for the the passengers and anyone in the vicinity of the vehicle.
Digital maps showing every road sign, traffic light, temporary road works, etc, need to be part of the solution.
According to Amnon Shashua, chief technology officer at Mobileye, “If we want to have autonomous cars everywhere, we have to have digital maps everywhere.”
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Today’s navigation solutions will have to adapt
The loss of the driver - whether it is total or partial - means that in-cab navigation solutions as we know them today might not be needed anymore.
Instead, new technologies enabling a better synchronisation between the “smart” truck and the back-office might gain a much bigger importance.
Vehicles are already getting geared up with connected features that enable a safer and effortless journey.
But technological advances happen so fast that it is hard to predict exactly where this field will be in the next few months or years.
So, what’s next?
Even though self-driving vehicles are a trendy topic at the moment and despite all the test implemented by big companies, we still have a few years before entire fleets hit our road.
Besides, as Alain Kornhauser, founder of the ALK Technologies Inc , pointed out in this article, self-driving does not necessarily mean driverless. And it is very likely that the first generations of autonomous trucks will still require the presence of a driver in case something goes wrong during the journey.
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