January 3, 2018, 4:15am. My iPhone alarm sounded – it was time to get up. I slept on a couch downstairs, as I didn’t want to wake up my family at this crazy time. But what was an unusually early start for me was just another day at the office for one of my friends, a truck driver. He works for a large confectionery company, which is a main supplier for Aldi and Lidl, the big German retail chains, and based in the city of Alkmaar, the Netherlands. I decided to join him on the road to experience road traffic from a different point of view. We spent the day driving to the company’s distribution centers in the southern part of the Netherlands to deliver its products. As well as being great fun, it provided some food for thought for my next column – killing two birds with one stone, so to say.
If you have been following developments in Silicon Valley – specifically news concerning the Semi, Tesla’s spectacular, aerodynamic, futuristic-looking fully automated truck – you will know that autonomy and logistics are serious businesses. Having hosted the Truck Platooning Challenge at Intertraffic Amsterdam 2016, I had been aware for some time that logistics is a hot topic. Surfing the web, however, made me realize what giant leaps have already been made in this industry, with regards to autonomous driving in particular. Daimler, Volvo, Uber and Apple are all testing automated trucks, and at last summer’s Automated Vehicle Symposium in San Francisco the conclusion was that “heavy-duty trucks that don’t need a driver behind the wheels could be on the road in as little as three years”.
In the past, I must admit that when I spoke about autonomous driving, I more or less only considered autonomous consumer vehicles.
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which took place in Las Vegas in January 2018, once again highlighted the progress we have make in the fields of smart mobility and autonomous driving. But after my desk research and ‘live experience’ on the road, I am convinced that autonomous features, such as driver assist and safety enhancements, will be integrated into logistics and freight fleets much faster than into consumer vehicles.
Two things have really influenced my opinion how autonomy and logistics in Europe will progress the next 5 years. Firstly, EU trucks not being allowed to drive faster than 90km/h (56mph) – and therefore having a tachographs built into them. Secondly, convenient and efficient driving, due to drivers’ extremely good visibility of the roads.
Source: Traffic Technology Today