You simply can not have a functioning economy without long-haul trucks. Freight transportation is currently a $1.1 trillion market in the United States and is expecting revenue growth of 36.6 percent over the next decade. And it has been the source of reliable, high paying jobs for such a long time. It is hard to imagine the industry is grappling with severe driver shortages for the last 15 years or so. Apparently, younger generations no longer respond positively to the benefits of work-travel and it has become a chore for the industry to find drivers willing to spend months at a time on the road, away from their families.
It is a strange situation to be in. That’s because long-haul trucking has generally been immune to the major threats, such as offshoring and automation, that have altered so many other industries. Obviously, getting goods via freight from Point A to Point B on United States interstate highways cannot be outsourced to China or India. But having Level 4 autonomous long-haul trucks for logistics, according to IDTechEx, could save the industry hundreds of billions in employment costs while producing significant productivity gains and fuel savings. And it could also help alleviate the problem of driver shortages.
Level 4 autonomy for trucking means fully autonomous driving on highways (exit-to-exit), with local truck drivers or teleoperators driving the first and last mile between highway exits and distribution centers. The value proposition is that labor costs will be dramatically decreased, and it relieves the pain point of driver shortages by making the job less stressful, which may attract younger individuals to truck driving.
But to get there, long-haul truck manufacturers are still going to have to solve the same problems of object perception and vehicle reaction that have hindered the current testing of autonomous automobiles. The ability to distinguish between true threats from false alarms on the road will be no different for long haul trucks than it is for passenger vehicles. To reach the higher levels of automation for trucking, it will be imperative to identify, assess and respond to real world obstacles in a feasible and fail-safe manner. We are happy to say our 4D Imaging Radar platform will provide the higher-level perception abilities needed to make it happen. This is because our technology detects hundreds of objects (stationary and moving) in ultra-high resolution. It supports over 100,000 detections per frame with a point cloud density that provides two orders of magnitude higher resolution than any other radar solution on the market. It can sense a vehicle’s ego-velocity, in lane localization, tracking and precise free space mapping, thus providing the basis for navigation, path planning, and obstacle avoidance. 4D Imaging radar offers the trustworthy tracking of objects without false alarms in all environmental conditions and it also protects vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, bicycles, and motorcycles.
Many experts feel that long-haul trucks may be closer to realizing the benefits of high-level automation than passenger vehicles. There are multiple tier-1 and OEM automotive customers in the United States, Europe, China, and Japan whose radar systems are being developed, based on our next-generation imaging radar chipset solutions. The same advances made in 4D imaging radar for AVs will also be a key technology for the trucking industry to reach Level 4 and to preserve the long-haul trucking industry as a major economic engine for the United States.
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