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It is almost a daily thing now to hear about the latest advancements in the field of drivable technology. The idea of a car that can drive you or your goods from point A to point B with just the push of a button has been a dream of many for decades.
And not only the dream of the average citizen
The reality of it all may be closer to becoming the status quo than you think…
In this blog post we will be taking a look at the history and the future of autonomous delivery trucks and the impact they will make on the logistics industry.
There are a few different companies in the realm of auto-tech that are continuously pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
But, there is only a couple of really big players in the game at the moment who are sitting firmly at the cusp of revolutionary tech that will disrupt many, many industries in a good way.
When people hear the mention of self-driving cars, the first company that comes to mind is usually Tesla.
Tesla is the big dog in the room (or maybe, in the car?) when it comes to innovative autonomous focused technologies. The company was founded by Elon Musk all the way back in 2003. This was during a time when gas prices were still at an all-time low, and because of that, no one really seen Tesla as anything more than a neat idea.
Fast forward to today and Tesla is basically synonymous with electric cars. As a matter of fact, it was the Tesla Model S that put the start-up on the map in a big way. That one car was so impressive, and still is to this day, that it has single-handedly won the company numerous awards and accolades over the years.
Furthermore, they continue to innovate and develop all kinds of new technology year after year. Keep your eye on Tesla over the next few years as autonomous driving starts becoming more and more integrated into everyday logistics operations.
Waymo is a project that was started in 2009 by Google. What was meant to be a simple self-driving car project turned into something so large and downright interesting that the project is still running to this day?
Since its inception in Waymo has come a long way, and in October of 2017, Google started testing out Driverless mini-vans on public roadways in Chandler, Arizona. These minivans had drivers in the driver’s seat in the event that they needed to take control of the car.
On November 7, 2017, that all changed. Waymo announced that it would launch completely driverless minivans. It was met with criticism and awe alike, but nevertheless, Waymo has been going strong since then. There is an autonomous Waymo minivan driving in 25 cities across the United States and has clocked a total of 10 million miles as of October 2018.
Coincidentally, this was the same year that the project had its first major controversy involving a collision with a bicyclist in California. Upon investigation, however, it turns out that this incident was the result of a safe driver in the vehicle at the time. The safety operator reacted to a potential collision the Waymo Pacifica was about to face. In doing so, the safety operator actually caused the collision. Had they not intervened, the minivan would have avoided the collision all by itself.
If you want to read more about that incident, check out this article over on Forbes.
Autonomous tech has been used for decades in warehouses. There is nothing new about the idea of using robots in that type of setting. But in more recent years we have truly been perfecting these things.
To be honest, asking how the industry as a whole can and will benefit from this is more of a rhetorical question. There are so many different benefits that can be gained from the implementation and use of autonomous technologies from a logistics point of view.
Take, for example, the palletizers that Amazon uses in their warehouses. Palletizers are basically gigantic robotic arms that can quickly and more efficiently pick up and move large items that a human may otherwise struggle with. You could always run across the warehouse to find an available forklift and operator, and then finally get your inventory pulled off the shelf. But why waste all that time when you can complete the same task in half the time by having your palletizer operator simply pull it off the shelf at the station designated for that specific task.
Of course, there is a lot more to the story, and the New York Times has already written such a great piece on the subject. So if you want more details about what Amazon has been up to, you can read that post here.
To sum it up… automation technology will make your warehouse run so much smoother by streamlining your usual processes. Your workers will have to walk less which will keep them from getting fatigued too quickly and lowering their work performance. And that’s not to mention all the freed up time they will have to focus more on fulfilling their other roles. No more spending an hour pulling a pallet; now they can get it pulled and loaded in 30 minutes and be on the road just as soon as they can get the key in the ignition.
There are plenty of people who are quick to make the claim that automation tech is going to kill the industry and leave a majority of workers without jobs as all the machines are given the jobs that humans once worked.
Just to assure you, no, we humans are not being replaced by machines.
If anything, this will bolster our industry, not destroy it. We should be welcoming these advancements with open arms because they are actually going to create more jobs, not destroy them.
See, all those people who may have their position fulfilled by a machine will simply move onto a new role. There are two points to understand here.
First, there will always be jobs for human hands.
And secondly, someone has to program, calibrate, operate, repair, assemble, disassemble, and clean all of these machines. And it isn’t only warehouse jobs either. All those self-driving vehicles are going to need mechanics and engineers who know what they are doing.
Humans aren’t going anywhere and the sooner we embrace automation, the faster our industry will grow.
The future is bright, the economy is strong, and with new technology emerging every year, we can expect to see the continued rise of autonomous technologies in logistics operations worldwide.