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.

Author

Jack Roberts
Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts

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.

View Bio

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.

View Bio
0 Comments