Across all transportation-reliant industries, we see more experimentation with self-driving vehicles and related technologies. Focused on lessening their reliance on human drivers in the midst of a significant truck driver shortage and leveraging the capabilities of modern technology, these companies are leading a charge that one day could give autonomous vehicles a real presence on the world’s highways and byways.

Those vehicles won’t be limited to passenger automobiles. Also making their way into the autonomous realm are trucks, buses, and yard and shuttle trucks. In my opinion, these autonomous vehicles which operate in controlled environments, such as ports, manufacturing plants, and distribution center yards will be the first to go mainstream.

“Already, companies have made fully autonomous beer deliveries and struck alliances to operate autonomous trucks (ATs) jointly. The rigs these companies are using are typically new medium- and heavy-duty trucks, outfitted with lidars, sensors, and other technology to allow the vehicle to operate without human intervention. Basic versions of the kit cost as little as $30,000; high-end packages might cost $100,000,” McKinsey reports.

However most companies are in stealth mode. ZF revealed autonomous Terminal Yard Tractor to the world last year. Running defined lanes within a restricted area, the yard trucks present an easy use case for moving freight from point A to point B autonomously. An extended sensor set enables the Terminal Yard Tractor to monitor its surroundings, while the central computer – ZF ProAI – coordinates the functions of longitudinal and lateral guidance, allowing the tractor to take the trailer from the truck and autonomously maneuver it to the ramp for loading and discharging.

“These vehicles can prevent maneuvering damage and downtimes,” ZF’s CEO told CCJ Digital, “which gives logistics companies a competitive advantage. The functions presented in our current innovation vehicles are applications that are in high demand and pay off quickly. Automated driving functions will see wider use in commercial vehicles much earlier than in the passenger market. We believe autonomous technologies will become standard in areas where they increase operational security and reduce operational costs.”

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