Satirical post foreshadows industry technology

Satirical post foreshadows industry technology

by Marly Hazen McQuillen
22. March 2013 12:32

Long-time readers of The Link may recall last year's April Fool's Day post: Truck driver shortage officially over. I had a little fun with this prankster holiday, describing how three (non-existent) trucking companies were dealing with the growing shortage of available truck drivers.

One of these (rhetorical) carriers addressed the problem by adopting a system of "Remote Tractor Operation," recruiting users from online video games to operate tractor-trailers from home and incentivizing good driving with digital badges.

The tongue-in-cheek post outlined potential controversies:

As veteran industry commentator Buck Carville noted, "Many of these remote 'drivers' have never been behind the wheel of a rig." Many have expressed concern that the position of vehicle operator will complicate industry regulations, ultimately leading to a revision of CSA rules. Others assert that because no one is driving these trucks, the FMCSA would have no authority to define operator hours of service or whether an operator would be allowed to use multiple monitors to control multiple vehicles.

Since publishing that post, projects such as Google's driverless cars have gained traction in the news, and Florida and California have joined Nevada in passing laws approving driverless cars.

We may wish to describe this passenger transport system as passive driving, as the person in the driver's seat is not relieved of all responsibilities; for example, Nevada stipulates that the person behind the wheel "may not 'drive' drunk." Beyond potential for consumer use, there has been little debate in the US over the commercial potential of driverless or passive-driving vehicles.

In Japan, a prototype of a truly driverless operation of freight trucks is undergoing testing. On February 25, NEDO, Japan's largest public R&D organization, demonstrated a convoy of four tractor-trailers, which was an update of the three-vehicle convoy it unveiled in 2010. These vehicles, which would not be guided remotely by human operators, can communicate with each other within 20 milliseconds. NEDO plans to have a driverless transport system functioning by 2020.

As new transportation models test a shift from active driving (the current system) to passive and even driverless driving, how do you think the supply chain industry will be affected?

Editor's note: Be sure to subscribe now to be sure to get our 2013 April Fool's Day post on time!

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