July 1, 2021
Autonomous cars have long been in the public imagination as the way forward for city commutes and mobility generally – especially as Tesla has made headlines (both positive and negative) with the self-driving capabilities of their vehicles. There’s no doubt that autonomous vehicles have the opportunity to radically change not only the way that people travel, but also how goods are shipped and how supply chains function.
In our increasingly globalised world, shipping, trade and logistics are carefully planned and executed sectors – even a slight disruption on the other side of the world can have incredibly detrimental effects to the ensuing supply chain. One only needs to think back to the Evergreen debacle earlier this year, when an immense cargo ship ran aground in the Suez Canal, causing delays and shortages around the world as ships had to re-route around the Cape of Good Hope.
One of the major components in this carefully calibrated system are the freight trucks that carry goods across countries and continents. Already overstretched, the load on freight trucks is expected to rise to 25.5 billion tons in 2045, up from 17.4 billion tons in 2015, according to a recent report by Deloitte. Autonomous trucks could go a long way to increasing capacity and capability in an industry that struggles with worker’s rights compliance and high turnover.
At present, autonomous trucks will be trialled using a transfer hub model, where the driver will navigate the truck in and out of the hub on smaller streets, switching over to an autonomous rig on motorways.
Of course, none of this will be feasible without proper cybersecurity measures in place. Autonomous driving requires constant communication between the vehicle, other vehicles around the truck and the motorway infrastructure. Without any security considerations, cyberattacks will not only be disruptive to the supply chain – imagine a delay in goods if a truck fails to reach its destination in time – but also dangerous.
Autonomous trucks may well be the future of shipping and logistics, easing the ever-growing burden on a rapidly expanding industry. And, with cybersecurity measures ensuring protected vehicle-to-everything communications in place, goods will be able to arrive safely and on time.
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