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“I want to turn people on to automated vehicles. This is an area that does not just need people, but people who can wrap their heads around this whole new way of thinking about the functioning of society.”
Automated 18-wheel trucks will one day occupy American highways and they have the opportunity to redefine the supply chain landscape.
Richard Bishop, a veteran intelligent vehicles strategist, consultant, and advisor at Peloton Technology, discussed the oncoming era of driverless, automated heavy trucks, passenger cars, and robo taxis with students on September 5 in David Strickland’s Supply Chain Management Transportation class at the Harbert College of Business.
Driverless 18-wheelers can maximize efficiencies and take a bite of the current driver shortage that plagues the industry, Bishop said.
“There is a lot of food wasted in the U.S. because the supply chain cannot get it delivered soon enough,” said Bishop, who earned a degree in electrical engineering from the Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn in 1981. “I’ve heard of entire trailers full of tomatoes that end up rotting. Because drivers today have limited driving time – there are rest periods required -- it can take them five to six days to take a load from California, where the tomatoes are growing in the winter, to the east coast. With driverless trucks, we’re talking about two days now because they have no hours limitations. That’s the impact – ripe tomatoes in our grocery stores. That’s just one tiny example of this – the ability to run so much cheaper with less time involved. It can ripple through the supply chain in amazing ways.”
When a second truck closely follows a lead truck – platooning -- and automatically mimics the lead truck’s actions, can save up to an average of seven percent in fuel. Other benefits included saving 43 percent in driver wages and benefits, according to the American Transportation Research Institute, and time. A self-automated 18-wheeler can cross the nation in two days. On the other hand, drivers are restricted to 11 hours on the road per day, making a cross-country trip five days.
But what about jobs? Won’t driverless trucks put hard-working men and women out of work, a student asked?
Bishop didn’t think so, immediately. “Effects might start to be felt in about 2030 and there could be a 20 to 30-year transition period for various reasons,” he said. “The average age of a truck driver is 55, and younger people aren’t attracted to the job for obvious reasons. Given the current driver shortage, which is about 50,000 to 60,000 drivers needed, for many years we would be decrementing the driver shortage rather than putting folks out of jobs.”
Strickland said bringing experts into his classroom reinforces what he is teaching students.
“To have someone who has been involved in the smart vehicle movement since its infancy – and he knows all of the players involved – is a great experience for our supply chain students,” said Strickland. “This is not second-hand information. They are talking to the source who is right at the cutting edge of what’s coming.
“Another thing that’s cool for my class is that it’s interesting. Wouldn’t you like to be able to get in your car and tell it to take you home?”
Bishop also serves as an expert consultant supporting the Ginn College of Engineering in strategy and research funding development in the field of connected and automated vehicles. He spent the week of September 5 visiting with Ginn College GPS and Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory personnel, who hosted a truck platooning demonstration before federal administrators at Auburn University’s National Center for Asphalt Technology.
“I want to turn people on to automated vehicles,” he said. “This is an area that does not just need people, but people who can wrap their heads around this whole new way of thinking about the functioning of society.”