European operators optimistic on timescale for autonomous trucks – report 05 November 2018

European transport operators believe that technology and innovation will secure the industry’s future, and 71% expect to see autonomous trucks on the roads within the next decade.

That’s among the findings of research released today (5 November) by the IRU, the International Road Transport Union, ahead of its inaugural world congress this week in Oman (see link below).

Geopolitical and economic uncertainty are also weighing heavy on the minds of transport operators in Europe, but most (71%) believe that technology-driven developments will help the industry to meet its key challenges.

Notably, almost one in three (31%) of European transport companies believe that improving safety will be the biggest innovation opportunity, while one in five cite automation.

They are also optimistic about the timescales for automation – nearly three-quarters (71%) of transport companies expect autonomous trucks to become a viable option within the next decade. Of these, 21% believe they will be a reality on our roads in the next five years.

The report finds, however, that while many European transport companies believe autonomous trucks are just around the corner – with several pilot projects already underway – several barriers remain.

These include lack of investment in infrastructure, upskilling of drivers, legal constraints and cybersecurity concerns.

These issues will need to be addressed to enable automation to reach its full potential.

“There is no question that autonomous trucks will eventually be transformative for the industry – helping boost productivity, create efficiencies and enhance driver working conditions,” says Boris Blanche, IRU’s managing director.

“But drivers will not become obsolete any time in the future, and in fact the industry must continue to encourage more drivers into the profession. Proper and responsible adoption over time is required, and we must see full cooperation from all industry stakeholders.”

The European results are taken from a global survey of 450 transport operators; 175 were from eight European countries, including the UK.

Laura Cork

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