The Journey to Autonomous Commercial Vehicles

In an article for GreenBiz, Navigant Research discusses current strengths and challenges facing the automated commercial vehicle industry

Automated vehicles (AVs) have generated a lot of interest in recent years. While the press’s primary focus has been on passenger AVs, there have concurrently been important developments and investment in the automated commercial vehicle sector.

In an article for GreenBiz, William Drier, research analyst at Navigant Research, discussed the past, present, and future of the automated commercial vehicle industry, including its current strengths and challenges.

According to Drier, incorporating automation into commercial vehicles is not new. In 1985, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, with help from Lockheed Martin, built the Autonomous Land Vehicle which performed an off-road trip at three miles per hour. Technology has since improved, he said.

“Today, we are seeing low levels of partial vehicle automation in the form of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) quickly becoming available throughout the commercial vehicle market. ADAS such as adaptive cruise control (ACC), automatic emergency braking (AEB), and lane keeping assist (LKA) are improving the business case for commercial vehicles,” said Drier.

The success of this technology has created opportunities to scale, improving commercial fleet driver safety and vehicle efficiency, and in so doing has reduced overall costs.

However, Drier notes, before AVs can reach commercialization, they must still overcome several challenges facing the industry. Many of these challenges focus on human-machine interaction, including over-reliance on unsophisticated systems not equipped to react to the dynamic road environment, fear of human job loss resulting from AV technology, and quick public judgement when AVs fail.

“As lower risk applications [are] successfully established, vehicles with higher levels of automation will be well positioned for more widespread adoption,” said Drier.

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