Au­ton­o­mous trucks could be­come vi­able in a decade

PMV Middle East - - CONTENTS -

A sur­vey in­volv­ing 450 trans­port com­pa­nies across Europe, the GCC and Asia con­ducted by Switzer­land-based global mo­bil­ity or­gan­i­sa­tion IRU has re­vealed that tech­nol­ogy and au­to­ma­tion will de­fine the fu­ture of road trans­port, but sig­nif­i­cant ob­sta­cles stand in the way.

Trans­port com­pa­nies recog­nise that de­vel­op­ments in tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion will be key to build­ing a safe, suc­cess­ful and sus­tain­able in­dus­try in the fu­ture. One in three (33%) trans­port com­pa­nies across every re­gion be­lieve that im­prov­ing safety will be the big­gest in­no­va­tion op­por­tu­nity, while one in five cite au­to­ma­tion. These com­pa­nies are ex­tremely op­ti­mistic about the timescales for au­to­ma­tion – over three quar­ters (76%) of trans­port com­pa­nies ex­pect au­ton­o­mous trucks to be­come a vi­able op­tion within the next decade; among these, 29% be­lieve they will be a re­al­ity on our roads in the next five years. Trans­port com­pa­nies be­lieve the pri­mary ben­e­fit of au­to­ma­tion will be boost­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity (50%), fol­lowed by help­ing to cut costs (19%).

How­ever, the re­al­ity is that there is still some way to go be­fore they be­come a safe, se­cure and sus­tain­able op­tion on our roads. While the tech­nol­ogy it­self is be­com­ing ever more so­phis­ti­cated, there is a risk that it will be held back by the lack of nec­es­sary in­vest­ment in in­fras­truc­ture.

Boris Blanche, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, IRU, said: “There is no ques­tion that au­ton­o­mous trucks will even­tu­ally be trans­for­ma­tive for the in­dus­try – help­ing boost pro­duc­tiv­ity, cre­ate ef­fi­cien­cies and en­hance driver work­ing con­di­tions. But driv­ers will not be­come ob­so­lete any time in the fu­ture, and in fact the in­dus­try must con­tinue to en­cour­age more driv­ers into the pro­fes­sion. Proper and re­spon­si­ble adop­tion over time is re­quired, and we must see full co­op­er­a­tion from all in­dus­try stake­hold­ers.”

Um­berto de Pretto, sec­re­tary gen­eral, IRU, said: “For tech­nol­ogy to take hold, and for the in­dus­try to truly ben­e­fit from it, we must en­sure we have the foun­da­tions in place. This means first get­ting the ba­sics right, such as full tran­si­tion­ing to dig­i­tal doc­u­men­ta­tion, im­prov­ing trace­abil­ity, se­cu­rity and ef­fi­ciency. We must work harder to join the dots be­tween op­er­a­tors, ser­vice providers, man­u­fac­tur­ers and gov­ern­ments to nur­ture a sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment for in­no­va­tion and digi­ti­sa­tion. We must also push for leg­is­la­tion and poli­cies that en­cour­age all op­er­a­tors to in­vest in the tech­nol­ogy needed to make these in­no­va­tions the norm. At IRU, our role is to cham­pion the po­ten­tial of the in­dus­try and pro­mote this co­op­er­a­tion, to em­power all op­er­a­tors in the sec­tor to seize the great in­no­va­tion op­por­tu­nity.”

Bar­ri­ers to adopt­ing tech­nol­ogy per­sist – with trans­port com­pa­nies cit­ing the ma­jor chal­lenges to adopt­ing tech­nol­ogy driven in­no­va­tion as cost and in­vest­ment (71%), fol­lowed by a lim­ited un­der­stand­ing of the range of emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies avail­able (50%). This sug­gests that pock­ets of the in­dus­try have yet to em­brace new tech­nolo­gies and pro­cesses, and that there is still work to do to fix the dig­i­tal foun­da­tions of the in­dus­try be­fore tech­nol­ogy-driven in­no­va­tion can be op­ti­mised prop­erly.

The find­ings of the study also re­veal that trans­port com­pa­nies are con­cerned about macro global is­sues. Over half (57%) see geopo­lit­i­cal uncer­tainty as the big­gest threat fac­ing the sec­tor – from es­ca­lat­ing in­ter­na­tional trade wars to grow­ing con­cerns around Brexit. The risk of global re­ces­sion and the chal­lenge of keep­ing up with chang­ing cus­tomer de­mand are jointly seen as the sec­ond big­gest threats to trans­port com­pa­nies at 52%.

Um­berto de Pretto, said: “The global trans­port sys­tem touches the lives of each of the planet’s seven bil­lion peo­ple, from the food we eat to the con­sumer goods we buy. So it’s per­haps not sur­pris­ing that many of the is­sues fac­ing so­ci­ety to­day are also con­sid­ered by trans­port com­pa­nies to be their big­gest chal­lenges. These in­clude some of the main themes that dom­i­nate the in­ter­na­tional agenda, in­clud­ing geopol­i­tics, trade and the en­vi­ron­ment.”

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