Driverless tractor-trailers could alleviate driver shortages

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) — Self-driving tractor-trailers are no longer part of the future. Using very complex technology, TuSimple made trips from Phoenix to Tucson with no one behind the wheel.

The trucks use radar, lidar technology and cameras that allow them to see 1,000 meters ahead, just over the length of 2 and a half football fields. They can detect vehicles around them, track their speed and know if other cars are drifting into their lane.

“The goal is to bring self-driving trucks into the supply chain so they can be commercialized and you’ll see from Phoenix to Dallas, from Tucson to Dallas, through the driverless sunbelt,” said Jim Mullen , administrative director of TuSimple.

Mullen said they expect to start moving cargo by next year. Their goal comes at a time when the country is facing a shortage of drivers. The American Trucking Associations estimates that the industry needs at least 80,000 drivers.

“They expect that to double by the end of the decade,” he said. “This truck can replace human drivers in certain areas, certain lanes.”

The company has mapped out specific routes in Arizona and Texas and has plans for others nationwide in the future.

“We’ll continue to evolve that, and you’ll see more and more of these trucks on the roads without humans,” Mullen said.

He said they had covered around six million self-driving miles so far. The company continues to advance the technology and is now working on siren detection so trucks can recognize emergency vehicles on the roadway.

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