Imagining the future of the vast trucking industry that will become autonomous in the coming years.
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Video by Bryce Plank and Robin West.

More information on this topic:
The future of trucking:
Tesla's electric truck:
Truckers discuss the future of trucking:

The semi-truck. Our modern lives are completely dependent on them. Look around you. Every object you see probably traveled on at least one big rig. Here in America, truckers make up 2% of the workforce. But with multiple game-changing technologies converging simultaneously — and the relentlessness of the hyper-competitive global marketplace — the industry will be revolutionized within the next two decades.

This is an examination of the future of trucking.

Before we get into the technology that will turn it all upside-down, we must first understand the way this extremely fragmented industry works now. To the numbers! There are about 3 million drivers for 2.5 million trucks in the US. Those trucks are owned by 532,000 carrier companies, but 90% of these fleets have fewer than six trucks—and half of all carriers are single individuals who own and operate their own rig. Then you have the middlemen, the freight brokers. These 13,000 companies play matchmaker between the manufacturers and wholesalers (who are trying to get their goods to market) and the retailers (who make the final sale to the consumer).

Because this industry is so splintered, there aren’t universal software systems tying it all together. In fact, 67% of shippers don’t use software at all and rely solely on paper records—in 2017!

This creates tremendous inefficiency. When every piece of information has to be communicated through human interactions, drivers are frequently forced to wait hours to book or pick-up a load. And sometimes they just don’t, an estimated 20% of trucks on the road are empty.

To solve these problems, investors are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on startups competing to develop the silver bullet, a software layer that can be used by every segment of the industry.

Another area ripe for modernization is how trucks are powered. Today, medium and heavy duty trucks account for 6% of the greenhouse gas emissions produced in America.

To their credit, companies like Walmart are looking to transition to fleets powered by cleaner natural gas, the bridge fuel America has embraced to transition to renewables.

That’s where Tesla comes in. Elon Musk, CEO of the electric car manufacturer, plans to unveil an electric-powered semi-truck in the next six months.

Battery range will be the biggest obstacle to the widespread adoption of electric trucks as Tesla’s pack will probably only have a 200-300 mile range. The other challenge will be having enough charging stations — and enough power available at each station — to support fleets of Tesla trucks.

The Nikola One attempts to overcome these limitations. This gorgeous, hydrogen fuel cell truck will have a range up to 1,200 miles. The young company plans to begin leasing their trucks by 2020 for about $6,000 a month — including the cost of fuel — but it will first need to build a network of about 400 charging stations throughout the country.

Cutting the emissions of semi-trucks is great for the environment, but the real cost-saving opportunity lies in cutting out the drivers.

It’s been more than a year now since six convoys of semi-autonomous “smart” trucks arrived at the Netherlands port city of Rotterdam after leaving factories from as far away as Sweden and Southern Germany.

That experiment relied on a system called platooning, a semi-autonomous feature allowing trucks to find each other, link up, and draft to cut down on wind drag, saving energy—just like in NASCAR or the Tour de France.

And in October, a self-driving truck completed the first commercial shipment by an autonomous vehicle, delivering a load of Budweiser more than 120 miles across Colorado. A human got the truck on the highway and engaged the autonomous system, then climbed out of the driver’s seat. That truck was made by Otto motors, which was recently acquired by Uber.

And dozens of massive, 240-ton trucks are already being used in Australian mines.

So that’s the near-future we’ll see in the next 10 years: fleets of driverless trucks. Some will be designed to be autonomous, while others will have the system installed later. Many will be electric, and nearly all will be connected to efficient networks that are not slowed down by frequent human input.


    • Faron T
      Faron T

      A European company designed a huge capacitor that could power these trucks for more than 250 miles But the US government won't allow the companies use them

      about 18 hours ago
    • Bryan Max
      Bryan Max

      This looks like a hot spot for hijackers and hackers for real. Nothing is really safe online. We seen it when banks get hacked

      about 1 day ago
    • Ray Morrow
      Ray Morrow

      Without a driver: who will back into the dock? Check in with receiver? What if freeway is blocked or closed? What if the last truck stop before the snowed in mountain pass is completely full? Weather conditions? What if battery completely fails while in travel 75 mph on major highway?
      I've been in the industry for 5 years.. there are situations that require moral judgement. This will never succeed as much as their greed wants it to.

      about 2 days ago
    • George Isaak
      George Isaak

      Technology gives more to the "boss" than it gives to the "worker" that is crystal clear to me . The only good solution would be to make the advanced semi truck GREEN of course which saves the environment and driver friendly so they both have profit ! Taking the driver out of the equation is like as if you put your signature to a moving disaster . I am not even an American , nor a truck driver but i can see the whole matter from a perspective more neutral ... lets say you see the autonomous trailer driving by its own , while driving your car with your family inside ...your first reaction by instinct will be to keep a safe distance from that thing . PERIOD. Second flaw about this whole idea is not just the truck drivers losing their job , also the diner's where truckers used to eat at every stop , now will have less costumers and eventually will put locks one after another ...those places will become useless as time goes by and then ...the less people travel there the more likely is criminality to rise on those areas , people will be forced to move out off their houses in lack of income and safety . Its a chaos that simply the companies never thought about or they just didn't care about it . You can assist braking , you can make it have no emissions at all , but taking the driver out of the seat is a HUGE mistake plus that in case of an accident a robot will not assist you the way a truck driver could .

      about 2 days ago
    • Megaman The Second
      Megaman The Second

      it would be much cheaper and simpler to make roads that actually work 8 lanes of traffic is just traffic america is incompetent when it comes to transportation in general i doubt automated driving will be any different ( lets not mention the long list of issues that most companies working on automated trucks ignore that would make trucks fatal and dangerous to humans)

      about 12 days ago
    • joseph richardson
      joseph richardson

      It would not work with a driver less truck

      about 13 days ago
    • Lawrence Wright
      Lawrence Wright

      Hey Bryce. I am just curious. Did you make videos saying that the Russia conspiracy was real, and then delete those videos too?

      about 14 days ago
    • Lawrence Wright
      Lawrence Wright

      Hey Bryce. What happened to those videos where you predicted a Hillary landslide? In fact, I seem to recall that you said Trump wouldn’t even get the nomination, or that if he did, the GOP would implode.

      You were looking into a crystal ball then. How does all that broken glass taste now?

      about 14 days ago
    • MizYazzy Khan
      MizYazzy Khan

      I wish folks would stop trying to cut jobs

      about 14 days ago
    • Sam Sam
      Sam Sam

      From reading so many 100's of comments, it seems that except for these big corporations nobody knows where the world / technology is headed to disrupt human lives. My question is - Are you creating these massive Auto Pilot machines to "help" humans or will there be only ONE man BAND CEO in the company to handle a 100 trucks and then a few mechanics for maintenance, so all profits can go straight to the Bank in Bahamas......and the rest of the world, can go to 'hell'. But to me, it seems rather intriguing as these video shows that you are trying to "CUT" the middle men, who facilitate and connect the dots between the Load & Trucks by a superior software, so that efficiency reaches 100% but have you figured out where will those 13 million Middlemen/Women will go to work the day these Hi-Tech Trucks start rolling on road. I think the key to these big future is to let the people to start to change & enroll in certain programs, so that when the SHIFT comes, they are ready with another role to play. I was a middleman working in Sourcing but when the Shift came, it took away jobs from all of us right in front of our eyes, and we could do nothing about it, except to drive Uber and loose all the savings. There will be massive chaos in every country if there is no "safety nets" designed for Drivers & middlemen's before this giant industry moves to a different platform to get their work done and "undo" the jobs of millions.

      about 28 days ago
    • Daddys Fastest Swimmer
      Daddys Fastest Swimmer

      Soon robots will have all the jobs and no one will have money to by product. Its like capatilism is starting to eat itself.

      about 1 month ago
    • Piped and drought
      Piped and drought In reply to Daddys Fastest Swimmer

      Vote for andrew yang freedom divend

      about 1 month ago
    • Earlando Johnson
      Earlando Johnson

      I can see this coming in the next 20 years, well after I've retired from trucking. 😅

      about 1 month ago
    • Wesley Real
      Wesley Real


      about 1 month ago
    • Rod Fromleftfield
      Rod Fromleftfield

      Removing drivers? I’m all for technological advancement but if you think I’m going to stand my broke, unemployed a** on the sidewalk cheering as the latest autonomous truck steals my job, I’m sorry but I hope the plan is so cost prohibitive that the idea falls flat on its face!

      about 1 month ago
    • Straight Outta Markarth
      Straight Outta Markarth

      I have heard it takes 5-10 years. since this video only 8 years left.

      about 1 month ago
    • JHVN Herrmann
      JHVN Herrmann

      It will be interesting to see this truck chain-up itself? Deal with shippers/receivers? Its all about getting rid of paying the driver. No thanks, I'll keep driving my 30 year old cabover that has some class.

      about 1 month ago
    • JMax

      EMISSION FREE trucks are good news ... but cutting off Driver jobs is ... greed ... take away the job and money of millions of people .... then when some software becomes selfaware and then .. Terminator happens .. haha

      about 1 month ago
    • JMax

      Baby steps towards SKYNET ... Hasta la vista, baby ..

      about 1 month ago
    • Larkon979

      I think truck automation will happen but not in the next decade. I'd say the next 30 years before complete automation.

      about 1 month ago
    • robert smith
      robert smith

      just think on the impact it would have on the lot lizards more people out of work

      about 1 month ago

      You so motivated that makes you blind, you have no idea what you are thinking about and obviously you don’t have a clue of what the trucking/Transportation industry is like!!
      Foolish... So Foolish....!!!!

      about 1 month ago
    • james addie
      james addie

      And when it kills a family????

      about 1 month ago
    • Jeffrey Rodriguez
      Jeffrey Rodriguez

      All im hearing is excuses and making things complicated to screw the truck drivers.

      about 2 months ago
    • Brian Koedam
      Brian Koedam

      Nah I will keep my peterbuilt

      about 2 months ago
    • D Sherm
      D Sherm


      about 2 months ago
    • D Sherm
      D Sherm


      about 2 months ago
    • ronnel monroe
      ronnel monroe

      im telling you the day they replace drivers with tech will be the the day i become a land Pirate robbing trailers 🤷‍♂️

      about 2 months ago
    • Piped and drought
      Piped and drought In reply to ronnel monroe

      Pirates of the high mile

      about 1 month ago
    • ricky christmas
      ricky christmas

      what happens when the google maps goes down.....?????????????

      about 2 months ago
    • Frank Mlchael Glasscock
      Frank Mlchael Glasscock

      It won't work

      about 2 months ago
    • CaliforniaCheez

      They have talked about this in the maritime industry with few chances of collision at sea. However the insurance industry has refused to insure such ships and cargo. The same thing with aircraft. There are always radio wave interferences that occur. Interference simply from lightning or solar flares. Drivers prevent many accidents each year with cars that are at fault for the near miss. These people have to convince the insurance industry which is a tough sell. If it can't be done with ships at sea that go less than 20 mph, it is not going to happen on congested highways at 60mph. It hasn't happen for a farmer's tractor yet and if that is not safe, efficient, and insurable without an operator, it won't happen in trucking for at least 30 years.

      about 2 months ago