Driver short­age ac­cel­er­ates drive to au­ton­omy

Big Rigs - - SPECIAL REPORT -

EAR­LIER this month in Ja­pan Kei­ichi Ki­tazawa, Hino’s boss of the com­pany’s Ad­vanced Tech­nol­ogy Unit, spoke to Big Rigs about the fu­ture vi­sion of Hino trucks on the back of ma­jor shifts in Ja­panese market con­di­tions.

His re­marks un­der­scored Hino’s com­mit­ment to zero traf­fic ac­ci­dent ca­su­al­ties. Para­mount in achiev­ing that goal is mov­ing more tasks from driv­ers to au­to­mated sys­tems – ul­ti­mately to elim­i­nat­ing driv­ers en­tirely.

The push to­wards tech­nol­ogy is tied to the driver short­age that seems en­demic to most first world economies. Driv­ing con­tin­ues to carry a de­gree of so­cial stigma, and in Ja­pan the ra­tio of driv­ing jobs to ap­pli­cants has grown from 1:1 in 2005 to 2.76:1 in the first quar­ter of 2018.

Ad­di­tion­ally the driver age dis­tri­bu­tion has shifted dra­mat­i­cally, from 34.6 per cent of driv­ers be­ing over 40 years old in 1993, to 72.1 per cent in 2016, an un­sus­tain­able trend. No won­der Hino is plan­ning on ac­cel­er­at­ing the de­vel­op­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion of high tech­nol­ogy au­to­mated sys­tems for its truck range.

Right now ad­di­tional elec­tronic fea­tures are un­der de­vel­op­ment and some will be re­vealed in new mod­els due be­fore the end of the year. Clearly the tech­nol­ogy is way ahead of the reg­u­la­tory frame­work.

While safety and elim­i­na­tion of ac­ci­dents is a pri­mary goal for au­ton­o­mous trucks, Hino’s pro­jec­tion of a truck and driver lead­ing a pla­toon of two other driver­less trucks that fol­low its wheel­tracks will be a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to solv­ing the loom­ing driver cri­sis.

Kei­ichi Ki­tazawa be­lieves tech can mit­i­gate driver short­fall.

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