Dec. 10, 2015—Driver-free trucks and locomotives will soon become an economic imperative for freight railroads and motor carriers, changing the economics of shipping.
As technology companies develop driverless cars, the freight industry is working on the equivalent for trucks and trains. Shifting to driverless freight could resolve the long-standing problems of truck driver shortages in the U.S., significantly cutting costs for freight companies. The technology also could be more fuel-efficient than human drivers and safer in terms of accidents.
Research and development is much further along in the automation of trucking than in freight rail because trucking is more labor-intensive and the economic benefits of automation greater. The compelling economics of autonomous trucking may change the transportation landscape so radically, however, that railroads will have no choice but to respond in kind. To manage this transition safely, all parts of society—government, the private sector and the public—will need to work in concert, with freight railroads and motor carriers leading the way.
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