AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES: NOT IF BUT WHEN

It’s no news to anyone that autonomous vehicles are coming, and in a big way. The more pertinent question is when – when will we reach the tipping point?

Driverless trucks are the future of the freight industry. Leading equipment manufacturers are investing heavily in the development of driverless features with estimates that, by 2025, 8,000 driverless trucks will be sold globally.

The ramifications of this innovation are enormous so Teletrac Navman commissioned ACA Research to assess intention to adopt within the Australian road freight transport industry.

Many transport operators recognise that autonomous trucks will support Australia’s growing freight task during the next decade, with 10 per cent saying it will have an important role and almost one-third more indicating it will play some part.

So when do transport operators expect to introduce autonomous vehicles into their fleets? One in 10 businesses expect autonomous trucks to be part of their fleets within the next decade. Another 18 percent expect to see driverless trucks in their fleet at some stage. Yet that leaves 72 percent with no interest in adopting the technology any time soon.

The expected rate of adoption varies significantly by size of fleet. About one in five transport businesses operating 50 trucks or more expect to be early adopters of driverless trucks, compared with one in 25 operators with only one or two trucks.

The larger transport operators, with fleets of 25 trucks or more, only account for about two to three percent of road transport businesses. However, ACA Research estimates they account for about half of total trucks in the road freight transport industry.

Accordingly, their intentions to use autonomous vehicles will have a significant impact on the market and on the tipping point for wider adoption of the technology.

Why driverless?

The perceived benefits of the technology fall into four main categories: reduced operational costs, increased productivity, safety improvements and a better experience for the customer.

A more in-depth examination of these benefits shows that the smaller fleets are more likely to see no competitive advantage, whereas the larger fleets expect to achieve significant gains around reduced operational costs, safety improvements and a greater level of productivity.

If these gains materialise it’s reasonable to expect that technology laggards will soon be at a significant disadvantage. This will create pressure for them to use autonomous vehicle technology within their fleets.

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