How would you feel about being on the road next to a driverless semi-truck? Some say it's safer than having a human behind the wheel—others say no way. News Center 7 reporter Sean Cudahy looks at the research and testing of driverless semis right here in Ohio, and what it means for all drivers in the future.
Watch the SPECIAL REPORT ON NEWS CENTER 7 on Monday, May 7, at 5 p.m.
Truck drivers — one of the most in-demand and stable jobs in Ohio — could face major changes as the industry develops new automated, driverless technology.
Here are five reasons that driverless semi trucks could become the future of the trucking industry:
1. NEED FOR DRIVERS
The commercial trucking industry will need as many as 900,000 drivers over the next decade as the current workforce ages, according to recent data. There are about 1.7 million truckers in the U.S. right now.
2. OHIO INVESTING
Driverless trucks will soon hit Ohio roads with the help of a $15 million investment from the state for a "smart road" located in the central part of the Buckeye state.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced in 2016 the creation of the Smart Mobility Corridor, a 35-mile stretch of U.S. 33 in central Ohio that runs through Logan County. Officials say that section of U.S. 33 will become a corridor where technologies can be safely tested in real-life traffic, aided by a fiber-optic cable network and sensor systems slated for installation next year.
3. TRUCKERS ON BOARD WITH TECHNOLOGY
Kevin Burch, the president of the Dayton-based trucking company Jet Express, told this news organization in a previous interview that the trucking industry wants to work with scientists and the government to best utilize the newest technology. Burch doesn’t think the technology will overtake jobs, and drivers will still be needed.
“Safety is always first,” he said. “There needs to be more testing.”
Self-driving semis: Future of the trucking industry or safety hazard?
4. PREVENTING ACCIDENTS
Truck and bus crashes kill about 4,000 people a year in the U.S. and injure another 100,000. Driver fatigue is a factor in roughly one of seven fatal truck accidents. More than 90 percent of all accidents are caused at least in part by some form of driver error, according to MIT Technology Review.
5. COMPANIES INVESTING
Companies are already focusing on automated trucks. Otto, a San Francisco company, outfits trucks with equipment needed to drive by themselves, according to MIT Technology Review. The company was founded in 2016.