DHL – full autonomy coming incrementally

According to DHL Commercial Officer Bill Meahl, who published a blog on the DHL website, “a fully autonomous future is likely further away than some think” – but we still “need to be thinking about an autonomous future now”.

Important steps toward full autonomy have been taken according to the DHL blog, even while we are still a while away from achieving full autonomy. Meahl referred to DHL’s own steps toward the dream – buying Tesla semi trucks, work on platooning in the UK, and the recent announcement that its in-house EV manufacturer StreetScooter is looking at technologies that would enable its vehicles to be self-driving.

There will be no explosive move to full autonomy according to Meahl’s DHL blog, but an incremental set of steps toward a gradual replacement of people with machines.

“Autonomous technology will make [drivers’] jobs easier and safer, which may keep many on the job longer,” wrote Meahl. “The autopilot will take over things like acceleration, braking, lane-centering, and adaptive cruise control and react instantly in certain traffic situations. Truckers will of course have to monitor all of this and remain alert – something I don’t see changing any time in the foreseeable future.”

Meahl expanded on how the technology can increase drivers’ efficiency.

“Well before we witness driverless trucks cannonballing across America’s Midwestern plains,” said Meahl, “I predict we’re going to see truck convoys ‘platooning’ through the interstate highway system at an unprecedented level of safety and efficiency.

“Platooning involves a convoy of multiple trucks that use sensors, radar and vehicle-to-vehicle communications to basically operate as a single unit. By following closely behind a lead truck, the “truck train” takes advantage of drafting, which reduces fuel consumption. The technology has the potential to enable a single driver to comfortably command an entire platoon of trucks.”

Meahl concluded in the DHL blog: “Artificial intelligence may never supplant human intelligence in the cabs of our industry, but it will help improve driver performance – and if leveraged properly, it has the potential to make their jobs easier and safer.”

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