There’s a massive shortage of truck drivers in the United States; it stands at about 50 000 right now, and this is estimated to grow to 174 000 by 2026. Given this situation, Uber is testing a freight-delivery method that blends self-driving and conventional driver-operated trucks to relieve drivers from too much time spent away from home.
Human beings are better suited at manoeuvring trucks in busy cities; autonomous driving is better suited to tedious highway driving (because a self-driving truck doesn’t need to eat, rest, or pee for that matter). Bearing this in mind, Uber is conducting a test in Arizona – which combines humans and autonomous trucks.
In terms of this test, actual drivers deliver to a hub. Then loaded trailers are hooked to autonomous Uber trucks, which are driven across the state. At the other end of the trip, an actual driver takes over again. In reality, a human being is always involved – because it’s illegal for an autonomous truck to drive in Arizona (sans a person sitting in the cab, getting extremely bored).
That’s only the case for now, however. One day we will almost certainly be on the highway and we will be passed by a truck that doesn’t have a driver behind its wheel. Actually, come to think of it, the truck won’t need a steering wheel either…