Truck Tech

All Arrows Point to Trucking

Blog commentary by Jack Roberts, Senior Editor

July 28, 2017

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Truck platoons may well be the way average Americans first see autonomous vehicle technology in the real world. Photo: Peloton
Truck platoons may well be the way average Americans first see autonomous vehicle technology in the real world. Photo: Peloton

Last week, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos surpassed Bill Gates and (briefly) became the richest man in the world. And today comes the news that Mr. Gates has decided to invest in Convoy, a two-year old Seattle startup looking to crack the code on the same sort of real-time freight brokerage service as legally battered Uber Freight has been trying to do this year.

Gates has been sort of lurking in the background in automotive and trucking technology up to this point. It’s worth wondering if the $62 million investment in Convoy that he’s part of signals a bigger move into the world we all play in. I’m not a mind-reader, but my gut tells me, "Yes."

Trucking today is worth an estimated $800 billion a year in North America. That’s excellent news for fleets, but hardly the motivating factor for guys like Bezos and Gates. They’re innovators and visionaries. They see the world in a completely different way than you and I do. A century from now, we’ll talk about them – and other tech leaders like Elon Musk and the late Steve Jobs the way we talk about Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, Henry Ford and Nikolai Tesla today.

This is a unique moment in time – one that doesn’t come around very often – and we should all be glad that we’re alive to see it: When new technologies and brilliant thinkers synch at exactly the same time to break new ground and move our society forward in dramatic fashion.

And, increasingly, it looks like trucking is going to be one of the industries that will bear the brunt of whatever is coming our way on the technology and innovation front.

In fact, I’ve argued that in many ways, all the arrows point to trucking as the vehicle that will introduce a lot of this new technology to the public at large. For example, I have a strong hunch that the first time the average citizen observes autonomous vehicle technology in the real world, it will be a truck platoon rolling down an interstate highway. And the same can be said for electric vehicles and drones once somebody decides to put them to work delivering goods.

Trucking is the engine that powers the world we live in today. It is our economic enabler on a global scale. And to guys with visions like Gates and Bezos, it is, in its current incarnation, antiquated and inefficient to the point of madness. They think they can do better. Hell, they know they can do better.

So, they’re coming, whether you like it or not. But here’s the thing: If trucking is worth $800 billion a year now in its outdated and inefficient ways, what will it be worth once those inefficiencies start to disappear? I don’t know the answer to that question. But I’ll bet you that Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos have a pretty good idea.

Comments

  1. 1. ScooterAddict [ August 01, 2017 @ 09:29AM ]

    Platooning is a bad idea. When something unforeseen happens and kills someone of a whole family, do you just say that these things happen when developing technology? What about the Tesla accident? If there is a space big enough for an automobile to slip in between, it will. Then autonomous takes over and the truck behind automatically slams on the brakes to create space. Then the automobile behind the truck that's tailgating that looks away for a fraction of a second runs into the truck, killing 4 people on board. Now, if they are remotely related to a lawmaker in Wash,DC that will be front page news about dangerous truckdrivers. New laws will be enacted further to make the job even more unattractive for new drivers thus creating the self induced shortage that already exists. Now a job that was very attractive 20-30yrs ago is now to restrictive for most. Having to account for everything you do, 24hrs aday, 7days a week and 365days a year. Doctors with someone's life in their hands doing critical surgery doesn't even have to account for their time. Now it's okay for legislators staying up for 24hrs trying to get a bill passed that affects the whole nation is thinking clearly. On TV you see them sleeping on the job instead of paying attention to arguments.

    Yes, let the powers to be make rules, regulations and policy that they know nothing about except what lobbyists have told them make decisions. But please, don't actually listen to the people that do the job everyday. Be textbook about it like the drug rehab counselor telling an addict how the drugs react on them even though they have no experience with the substance.

    Yeah, truck platooning sounds like a great idea! WOW 😳!

  2. 2. Gregory Hinson [ August 03, 2017 @ 05:49AM ]

    If man makes, it can make a mistake. It has proven time and time again. I drove a tractor trailer for 40+ years and have seen most of the United States. Things do happen.

 

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Author Bio

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Jack Roberts

Senior Editor

As a licensed commercial driver, HDT senior editor Jack Roberts often reports on ground-breaking technical developments and trends in an industry being transformed by technology. With more than two decades covering trucking, in Truck Tech he offers his insights on everything from the latest equipment, systems and components, to telematics and autonomous vehicle technologies.

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