Meet Elon Musk, Chief Exectuive of Tesla. He is on a mission to transform trucks by making them self-driving.
And meet Diya, boss of a haulage company whose world is soon to be disrupted by Elon.
In this article, I predict how huge Self Driving Trucks will be by 2030 on a scale of 1 to 10 based on looking at:
- The technology needed
- The companies making it happen
- What's to love
- jobs that will be hired.
Self Driving Trucks will be huge if the three major technology challenges are solved.
See the Road
What is needed to see the road by 2030 is already solved.
Cameras, radars and sensors enable Elon's and other self-driving trucks to see the road. Cameras see the road and its surroundings detecting traffic lights, reading road signs, and seeing pedestrians.
In addition, some of Elon's competitors are integrating LIDAR and ultrasonic technology to provide an additional way of measuring the distance to nearby vehicles and the edges of the road.
Sensors in the wheels detect curbs and other vehicles when parking.
Map the Route
The technology the trucks need to map the route
maybe solved. Elon uses software in his trucks to organize and compile all the received data so that the truck can find the most efficient route to take.
But autonomous systems can't cope with unknown situations, so they need "experience" on the road to adapt to real-life scenarios as well as humans do.
With machine learning the trucks teach themselves with every trip they make by collecting more route data.
Elon's advantage is that he is gathering real-life road data from his existing 500,000 Tesla car fleet and he is adding 5,000 cars a week.
Even with this volume of data, he doesn't plan to map every route but instead ultimately to rely on the cameras to see and figure out what to do themselves.
What is needed to make trucks drive safely maybe solved. The truck's "actuation" system controls the steering, acceleration, and braking. During driving, the object detection and avoidance system run continuously to navigate obstacles ensuring a safe drive. There are 6 levels of autonomous driving - ranging from 0 (fully human-controlled) to 5 (full autonomy)
Currently, the Tesla semi-truck is capable of level 4 autonomy which means the truck still has a cockpit and needs a driver to remain to take over control if needed.
Self Driving Trucks will be huge if there are unicorns - startup companies that have a valuation of more than a billion dollars and when there's plenty of big established companies.
Elon's company Tesla is definitely a unicorn. It's the most valuable vehicle company in the world at the time of filming with a valuation of over $600 billion. Although most famous for its personal car division. In 2017 Elon unveiled Tesla's next-gen autonomous trucks Called the "Semi" it will go 500 miles on one charge hauling up to 80,000 pounds or 40 tons. It is due to begin deliveries in 2021.
California based TuSimple also manufactures autonomous trucks and is a massive unicorn you've probably never heard of. It's been conducting test trips recently shaving 10 hours off a normal 24hr delivery of freshly picked watermelons by not needing to stop for the driver to rest. It gained permission to test its level 4 autonomy trucks on public roads in Shanghai in 2018. The startup states that it will initiate full autonomy in late 2021 - from pickup to delivery without anybody on board. I personally think that's unlikely because it's so hard to do.
Aurora is already well and truly a unicorn.
Chris Urmson, the former executive of Google is the CEO of this company. Aurora is developing a full-stack solution called the “Driver" for its self-driving trucks. Their self-driving trucks will reduce the 3 days delivery time from Dallas to Los Angeles to less than 24 hours! It is planning to launch a fleet of 20 self-driving trucks in late 2023.
Swedish Einride has recently become a unicorn. Einride’s "T-Pod" trucks claim Level 4 autonomy and can be remotely controlled from miles away. T-Pods have been operating on public roads in Sweden since May 2019, despite having no cabin! Einride expects to have 200 trucks in operation by the end of 2021.
There’s plenty of multinational companies that are active including Volvo, Amazon and Scania
Investing in startups
Volvo invested in Peloton Technology (not the exercise bike company) which has a “platooning” technology allowing one driver to control two or more trucks.
Amazon has a partnership with German automobile maker Daimler to help with its testing of Level 4 self-driving trucks.
New concept trucks include Scania with its Bladerunner-looking cabinless industrial truck and Komatsu's mining truck. It's amazing thinking that thing has no driver. Because there are unicorns and because corporates are so active,
this look at Companies points to autonomous trucks being huge by 2030.
For self-driving trucks to be huge, we need to see whether they get 5-star levels of love or 1 star.
5 stars for running non-stop. Diya's drivers can't drive all the time because
they have to take breaks by law so they're safe. Elon's autonomous trucks have no such limitations. Self-driving trucks will drive an average of 17 hrs a day, versus Diya's 8 to 10 hours enabling faster deliveries
Reducing traffic gets a 4 star rating. Diya's trucks mostly drive during the day causing traffic congestion in rush hour. Elon's self-driving trucks will be able to plan their routes to avoid driving through cities during peak hours.
The autonomous system really doesn't mind being on the road at 3 am instead of 3pm. They have the potential to greatly reduce traffic jams and congestion, saving billions of dollars in avoiding time wasted
Safety gets a 3-star rating. Diya's drivers get exhausted and this is a factor in 14% of fatal truck accidents. Elon's trucks use computers that control the truck's speed and movement without getting tired or distracted. Tusimple uses cameras seeing 1 km ahead- twice the distance professional truck drivers can see.
But, because there is a risk that the computers make a mistake and cause a crash, it pulls the rating down to 3*
Autonomous trucks get 4 stars for being sustainable. Today, fossil-fueled trucks account for 29% of transportation-related emissions. Elon's trucks are electric and operate with zero emissions using green energy.
If Self-Driving Trucks are going to be huge there will be lots of jobs hired and fired.
Many truck drivers will be fired when the self-driving trucks one day take over their jobs.
On the hired side, one of the unicorns, TuSimple - a company you've probably never heard of - has an incredible 2600 job vacancies listed on LinkedIn.
They are across multiple job functions including: Research Engineering, analysis, planning, Quality Control Inspector, Management and HR. It's well worth looking at LinkedIn if you're interested in getting a job in the Self-Driving trucks sector.
Helping you make good career decisions is a big reason why I'm doing this Life in 2030 channel. Jobs in fast growing new sectors like self driving trucks are exciting and more secure than in older sectors.
Jobs in the autonomous truck industry are all around the world. Tesla and Amazon are headquartered in the US. Einride, Volvo and Scania are in Sweden. Komatsu is in Japan, Daimler is in Germany, TuSimple is testing in China.
You could set up some job alerts for these companies. It's easy to do on LinkedIn and click to have a look at my 'Finding great jobs for life in 2030' video. Because there's plenty of jobs being hired and fired, from a Jobs point of view, automous trucks are at the Huge end of the scale.