Many of the big tech players in the mobility space are engaged in the effort to advance autonomous technology, hoping to come up with a formula that can gain traction in the market. It’s not System A versus System B; dozens of ideas are on the table, driving the increased activity and interest in autonomous technology. EY analysts estimate that between now and 2030, we’ll see somewhere between 40% and 60% compound annual growth rate in the autonomous market.
Work is also taking place in private settings throughout the transportation and logistics space. Through considerable investment and experimentation, companies are applying autonomous technology within their own business operations to learn what works and what doesn’t. While most of this work is being done in a controlled setting, the activity still provides valuable insight that can be used to inform next steps within the industry.
Off the roadways, agriculture companies are exploring the viability of using AVs on farms to boost efficiency. Traditionally, farming work is done during the day, but AVs could work through the night, which would increase productivity.
Skeptics would suggest that AVs will continue to be the culmination of a five-year plan that never gets past year one, but many people said the same thing about electric vehicles, which are poised to become a commodity in the next decade. Autonomy may take a little more time to mature, but the investment being made in this area cannot be overstated.
As we study the market, four potential business models have emerged in a commercial autonomous trucking industry. There is a significant variation in each scenario in terms of the capital required for AVs and the necessary infrastructure to use the technology. Each of these models could disrupt the supply chain in a different way.
Four potential business models in a commercial autonomous trucking industry discussed below:
1. Retrofitted anonymous:
A company can use traditional trucks outfitted with its own self-driving technology, which sees the route largely through cameras and lidar laser sensors. Another option in this model is to have vehicles that drive themselves but are monitored from afar by remote drivers sitting in an office who can provide support when necessary. Remote control technology has proven successful in off-highway applications but will likely have more limited commercial operations in commercial trucking.
2. Autonomous platooning:
Platooning technology enables two or more trucks to travel in a tight, aerodynamic convoy by synchronizing their braking and adaptive cruise control through dedicated short-range communications.
3. Transfer hub:
Unmanned long-haul autonomous trucks would travel from exit to exit on freeways and swap trailers with trucks operated by local drivers at designated transfer stations. This model is designed to accelerate the introduction of unmanned trucks by limiting them to major freeways, where driving is easier to automate than on roads with intersections and cross-traffic.
4. Automated last-mile delivery:
The term “last-mile delivery” is used to describe the movement of goods from a transportation hub to its final destination. The goal of last-mile delivery is to transport an item to its recipient in the quickest way possible.