You know that age old problem; you’re driving along the road, minding your own business, when an exhausted truck driver hauling 30 overweight cattle drifts off into a wispy dream about winning the Monaco Grand Prix, rounding the final bend directly into the path of your 1998 Ford Escort.
While the thought of letting a machine drive such a heavy piece of machinery at 60-70mph around the country may have put you on edge, the realisation that humans can fall asleep, have a few beers at lunch or just be a bit rubbish at driving, should make you see a nice incredibly well tested machine that would do none of these things in a more positive light.
This is a real possibility too. We could see cars and other vehicles driven by computers on our roads in the next few years.
In case you missed it, Google and other wide eyed groups with too much money, have been working on autonomous vehicles. Google won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge for their vehicle Stanley which successfully completed a challenging course autonomously and won them $2m from the US Department of Defence, proving that the technology works.
Transferring this to a commercial option may still be far away, but not as far as it was before. Google apparently have no plans to start making cars (yet) but they do talk about the technology being made available (i.e. sold) to vehicle manufacturers.
While the idea of letting millions of drivers loose on the roads in automated cars is still probably way beyond the horizon for many reasons, the idea of fleets of automated trucks that puts the greatest pressure on the drivers could be a bit closer.
Truck drivers have a very difficult and dangerous job and thanks to human nature, they are inherently fallible, which is particularly worrying when there may be millions of pounds of cargo and potentially a number of lives at risk, should they decide to stay up late watching YouTube videos before they start a shift the next morning.
Existing logistics software and other supply chain systems shows that there is already less need for drivers’ brains to be involved already.
The law is the only thing standing between trucks and their new digital masters. Clearly there would need to be masses of evaluating, testing and stuff before a truck could be let loose, and the law itself takes time to change to allow such things. But when these things catch up we could well see robot trucks hitting the roads in the coming years.
Would you be scared to drive knowing there would be robot trucks out there?