The New York Times recently reported that in 2017, companies and investors have put nearly $1 billion into trucking technologies, including self-driving. That investment is nearly 10 times the amount invested three years ago.
According to GovTech, the trucking industry is ripe for autonomous vehicles, in part because the trucking industry will need nearly 900,000 drivers over the next ten years, due to workforce attrition. Autonomous technology will not solve this problem, but it will help.
It is estimated that there are nearly 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States, literally driving a $700 billion dollar industry. Trucking is integral to every part of the economy, from hauling natural resources, transporting manufacturing goods, and delivering items. According to the New York Times, "Virtually every physical product...has touched a truck several times by the time it gets to consumer hands."
There are several concerns about autonomous trucking; namely job loss and unreliable technology. Experts believe, however, that drivers will never be unnecessary. While self-driving cars raise criticism and concern because they navigate pedestrian-crowded, busy, and chaotic streets, much over-the-road trucking is done on long, straight stretches of fairly empty highways, which makes the trucking industry ideal for autonomous vehicles. Industry experts predict humans will still be involved, however, but they predict that drivers will act more like "a pilot coordinating with autopilot features on a passenger jet."
In addition, proponents of autonomous vehicles note that by making the industry safer and more efficient, it might make the job more attractive. Truckers would be safer, less likely to have accidents and some of the tedious tasks of the job would be alleviated.