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Completely Autonomous Driving Technology Will be in Place by 2035, While Telematics Service Providers Will Switch From Driver-Assisted Technologies to Vehicle and Fleet Management

Autonomous driving, which requires minimum or no public involvement, will be adopted first in trucks and off-highway vehicles, before passenger vehicles, finds Frost & Sullivan’s recent study on the Impact of Autonomous Trucks on Telematics Services, Forecast to 2035. The market and technology for autonomous driving is developing in phases, and is currently in Phase-2 (2017-2020), where one or more specific control functions such as stability, acceleration or deceleration work in tandem.

By 2035, connected networks of vehicles, cities, devices, and roads will support completely autonomous driving. The increasing adoption of autonomous technologies in trucking will improve safety standards, while reducing existing problems, such as the shortage of truck drivers and accidents or damage to vehicles, goods, and drivers.

While safety is the main benefit of automated driving, there are also other benefits such as multi-modal transportation, reduction in fuel consumption, eco-friendly alternatives, improving fleet performance, comfort, and efficiency.

However, legal and regulatory issues are likely to hold back the autonomous trucking market. Although the basic technology is already in place, a comprehensive set of regulations is required to govern them.

Advancements in telematics

Trucks require a set of hardware and support systems to enable automation. These systems, known as telematics, can be retrofitted in vehicles and integrated with driver-assistive technology for automation.

Though Telematics Service Providers (TSPs) and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) offer a range of solutions, from basic to advanced, they can be classified broadly under six categories:

  1. Fuel monitoring systems, which alert drivers about fuel drops and mileage logs.
  2. Trailer management systems, which check for overloading, trailer tracking, temperature monitoring, and sensors that alert when doors are opened.
  3. GPS-based tracking systems, which monitor vehicle status and activity, truck navigation, tire pressure monitoring, performance of remote diagnostics, and scheduling maintenance.
  4. Driver management systems, which check driver status and activity, monitor driver behavior, coach drivers, and monitor fatigue.
  5. Electronic Logging Devices (ELD), which automate vehicle inspection reports, tax filings, insurance compliance, and safety features such as collision alert, speed lockers, and alarms.
  6. Systems that perform geo-fencing and fleet analytics.

Video systems to improve safety

The integration of event recorders with existing vehicle telematics systems will help in reducing threats to safety and security.
Drivers and fleet owners are increasingly deploying in-cab video systems to enhance safety and security. Critical events can be cross-referenced with video systems, and actions can be evaluated and improved.At present, forward and driver monitoring are the key solutions for driver safety and behavior management. By 2020, 360° monitoring solutions will gain significance.

Platooning is the buzz word

Truck platooning, or the linking up of two or more trucks in a convoy using connectivity technology and automated driving support systems, is being seen as an important step towards the development and commercialization of autonomous trucking. With a platooning distance of 50-60 feet, two trucks can save about 7-8% in fuel consumption.Current technology is adequate for the seamless integration of 2-truck platooning.

Truck drivers to become pilots

Currently, driver-assisted technologies are used to control acceleration and braking, leaving only the steering control to the driver. Automated braking systems have a reaction time of 1/10th of a second. However, trucks will undergo technology makeovers in the near future.

While L4 autonomous trucks, capable of managing and operating by themselves, are not likely to roll out immediately, there could be partially autonomous trucks that operate under the supervision of a human driver very soon.The driver’s cockpit will undergo vast changes to make driving easy and allow drivers to complete other tasks.

It is expected that L3 conditional autonomy will be possible in a couple of decades and that drivers will need a new and different set of skills to perform their jobs. Drivers will be able to manage the consignment and become fleet managers en route. Even though the roles and responsibilities of a driver will change in the future, they will not be completely replaced.

The jobs of drivers can be compared to that of a pilot, where a pilot does the majority of the tasks during take-off and landing, but it is the flight control systems that does the flying mid-air. A similar system is what the trucking industry is moving towards.

Need for flexible regulations

Among the countries that are ready for autonomous trucks include the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands, Singapore, Germany, and Sweden, primarily due to their competence in the four key requirements – government policies, innovation, infrastructure, and societal acceptance.

Autonomous technology will advance quickly and supporting regulations will need to be more flexible for its development across the globe. Legislations around safety, usage, cyber security, and liability of L3 autonomous trucks are being examined and will be a significant factor in their potential introduction by 2025.
As these trucks will generate large volumes of data, they will have to be utilized and protected in an efficient manner. Data analytics will be the next big thing with the introduction of autonomous trucks. TSPs will be looking to align their strategies with this trend and develop innovative portfolios.

In conclusion, it’s estimated that the commercial trucking industry will be quicker in adopting autonomous driving technologies compared to the passenger car industry. Most of these autonomous trucks will ply on highways between designated points.

For more information on the Impact of Autonomous Trucks on Telematics Services, Forecast to 2035, please write to Mugundhan Deenadayalan, Senior Research Analyst – Mobility, at mugundhan.deenadayalan@frost.com

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