The Self Driving car revolution should begin with Trucks

Nextbigfuture was looking at how and where to operate robotic cars to accelerate their introduction back in 2008. Robotic car only zones in city centers would have enabled robotic cars to have more simplified and controlled environments to navigate. We had also looked at having robotic cars waiting or going to users. Robotic electric cars can go to a charging station when not carrying passengers. The robotic car only areas could encompass an entire city.

Brad Templeton was also looking at robocars back in 2008. He was considering Whistlecars.

Perspective Zoom credits Koushik Dutta, when he posted 5 small paragraphs entitled “The Unintended Effects of Driverless Cars” in December 2011. Koushik pointed out the The Really Cool Thing was what happened when you weren’t in the car at all, when you got to point B and didn’t have to park and leave it there for the rest of the day. The car could instead be directed to, say, take your kid to soccer practice. A single vehicle would ably serve as the sole vehicle for an entire family. Or maybe three families.

Brad pointed all this out in more detail in 2008 and 2009.

Nextbigfuture has noted how robotic trucks have already arrived. The city center exclusion zone where only robotic cars were allowed as an early introduction is like businesses who control large mining work areas or roads and highways only to transport mining material from a mine to a factory.

Perspective Zoom also realizes that robotic trucks make the most sense for early adoption. NBF had said before robotic cars will happen sooner on dedicated commercial roads (such as roads that just have trucks for delivering coal to a coal plant.)

If I had the chance to accelerate the adoption of driverless cars, I wouldn’t focus on either of those markets: I would look at trucking. Specifically, I would look at long haul trucking, the subset that usually does not travel to urban nor suburban areas in the first place.

Let’s get the obvious advantage out of the way first: Compared to driverless cars, driverless trucking is technically way simpler. When going from one warehouse in a sparsely populated area to a another warehouse in a similarly sparsly populated area, there’s a lot less that can go wrong. There are significantly fewer one way streets, fewer bicyclists, fewer pedestrians. The directions will be simpler on average. Because there are less people to potentially kill, legal liability will be comparatively lower. All things considered, long haul trucking seems to be the Minimum Viable Product of driverless cars: Start with the basic functionality, iterate, and then gradually introduce driverless trucking into suburban and urban environments as the technology improves and your safety record lowers your liability insurance.6

The other major advantage to trucking is that it’s a commoditized business service. Switching costs are lower as compared to the consumer market. It’s kind of inevitable that the cost of unmanned container transport will dip below that of manned container transport, as you don’t have to pay the salary of the driver

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