Clearly, the media outlets are most excited about the ability to move people, but there are so many other applications to consider! The freight industry is (understandably) excited about the potential for applying both connected technology (e.g., platooning) and autonomous technology (e.g., driverless) due to the cost savings associated with no drivers, great fuel efficiency, and ability to operate around the clock (no driver breaks needed!). This is especially relevant for the freight industry due to a national shortage in drivers.
Other interesting applications of the driverless technology include:
- Military applications: “The US Pentagon sees robots becoming more and more a part of military life with robot warplanes, submersibles, and infantry vehicles taking their place on the battlefields of the future…For all the cost of ships, planes, armor, and weapon systems, manpower is the single greatest expense in modern, industrialized armed forces.” (source)
- Farm applications: Driverless tractors are just one example of how this technology can allow farmers to focus on other activities.
- Mining applications: Volvo has developed a driverless truck that can explore underground mines. (source)
- Warehouse applications: Automated, electric-powered forklifts can improves safety and productivity in warehouses.
- Security applications: I haven’t actually heard about this, but driverless vehicles with security cameras could be used to monitor dangerous neighborhoods via remote (safer) monitoring.
Interestingly, most of these other industries cite that driverless technologies have been in use for many years. This likely reflects the fact that introducing driverless technology onto our public roads is a lot more complicated than these other applications. What else am I missing?
From 2020-2035 the automotive people-moving market will be occupied with Level 3 household and Level 5 cordon-limited vehicles (=robocabs), but the market for Level 5 household vehicles is farther off than most seem to consider. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/tesla-fully-autonomous-2020-bern-grush
It would be interesting to read about how the trucking unions would react or are reacting to these growing discussions of driverless vehicles, especially since that industry seems likely to be among the first affected by this technology.
Also, lots of corporate farms here in the US and Australia use GPS-driven equipment to harvest crops already; no people needed. John Deere and I think Trimble Navigation are the firms selling this technology today. Reminds me never to wander into a cornfield…