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Shifting Nature of Freight
AV technologies have the potential to profoundly impact many aspects of the freight industry and may help to tackle current issues the industry faces, such as labor shortages and high rates of driver turnover. With new technology platforms, autonomous trucks could become integrated into the logistics chain, potentially providing players across the supply chain with more transparent information about the status of goods shipments and movements. Highly automated, driverless or fully-automated trucks may also help increase the speed of delivery, since the need for driver rest periods would be reduced or nullified, and distribution routes could be planned differently (Flämig, 2016). Also, the ability to have autonomous trucks operate in a “platoon” with multiple vehicles tethered electronically and overseen by one driver could significantly reduce the cost of point-to-point linehaul journeys (Gibbs, 2017). Several companies that are working on developing autonomous trucks, including Uber’s advanced Technologies Group, are relying on a “transfer hub” model. In this model, long-haul autonomous trucks stop at transfer stations in order to exchange trailers with conventional trucks, which are then operated by local drivers to their final destinations (Clevenger, 2018). Automation could improve freight efficiency and capacity, which would reduce transportation costs, and possibly, the cost of the goods themselves. Further reductions in the cost of delivery could also lead to an increase in the demand for goods delivery.
The above is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of Multilevel Impacts of Emerging Technologies on City Form and Development (2020).