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Self-driving trucks could replace 90% of human drivers, study finds

There are still a few obstacles in the way, however.

semi truck transporting freight down a rainy path
Image: Unsplash

Self-driving vehicles have become increasingly popular over the last few years and thanks to advancements in technologies, engineers can focus on the commercial potential of autonomous vehicles. More specifically, self-driving freight trucks are the next goal for the industry.

But there are still several obstacles in the way. One of the biggest hurdles that the industry must overcome is infrastructure.

For long-haul jobs, driving on the interstate doesn’t present much in the way of problems. But it’s the journey from a facility to the interstate that presents a problem.

READ MORE: Unlike Tesla, Mercedes takes legal responsibility for self-driving tech

One potential solution is to have humans handle the short, complicated driving parts. Then, drivers would transfer the freight to a self-driving truck to handle the less complex bulk driving.

A recent study from the University of Michigan shows that a system like this could potentially impact up to 94 percent of long-haul trucking operator-hours in the United States. And that could affect up to 500,000 jobs.

self driving semi truck from tusimple
Image: TuSimple

But infrastructure is not the only challenge that the industry must overcome. The other major issue is the weather. Right now, autonomous trucks can only be trusted in clear weather. Poor weather, mainly snow, renders the current autonomous system fairly useless.

READ MORE: New UK law will let drivers watch TV in their self-driving cars

The study above mentions that most self-driving truck testing is currently being done only in southern states. With that restriction, the study found that this system would only impact about 10 percent of long-haul trucking operator-hours.

As we can see, there are definitely several obstacles still in the way of autonomous trucking in the United States. But I expect this industry to continue making advancements. Especially considering the increasing demand for truck drivers in this country.

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We likely won’t be seeing a major shift to autonomous trucking for a while. But the industry will certainly be working to make advancements. And we’ll definitely be hearing more about self-driving trucks over the next few years.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Staff writer at KnowTechie. Alex has two years of experience covering all things technology, from video games to electric cars. He's a gamer at heart, with a passion for first-person shooters and expansive RPGs. Shoot him an email at

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