How Long Will It Take for Driverless Trucks to Be Accepted?

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Self-driving trucks. Autonomous vehicles. We’ve talked a lot about this topic which, along with the ELD mandate, has dominated headlines in the transportation industry. We took a closer look at what self-driving trucks might mean for technicians. We also examined the ins and outs of how it might actually help the industry attract more drivers vs. replace their jobs. But a topic we have yet to explore is: are people (general public) really ready for them? As in, do they trust autonomous trucks?

Let’s say you’re on the road navigating through a snow storm on the interstate. You’ve got your family in the vehicle with you and look over to see a semi cruising along right next to you. Upon further glance, you realize there’s not a person in the driver’s seat. It gets pretty difficult for most to trust that a truck can handle the elements like snow and ice without a human taking over controls.

A recent survey conducted by Morning Consult asked over 2,000 adults in the U.S. about their views on several things in the transportation industry, including self-driving cars/trucks. Let’s take a look at how people responded…

Stats on Self-Driving Trucks

52% of Americans say they somewhat or completely distrust self-driving cars based on what they know, compared to 32% who say they somewhat or completely trust them (16% don’t know, no opinion). Yet 58% of Americans said while they don’t trust self-driving cars as it stands now, their opinion could change as the technology evolves, compared to 36% who said they will never trust self-driving cars.

When asked which of the following statements come closest to your view, 45% of Americans said self-driving vehicles will never be able to replace human drivers, compared to 17% who said they will be fully able to replace drivers by 2050, and 14% who said they will replace drivers by 2030.

Making Sense of It All

As it currently stands, while the majority of people surveyed don’t trust self-driving vehicles, a large percentage are open to changing their opinion as technology evolves. Further, nearly half of Americans surveyed thought that self-driving vehicles would never replace humans. So, while many are open-minded to the autonomous technology, nearly half believe they will never full replace human drivers. This echoes viewpoints that we have shared which is that while these trucks may be on “auto pilot” there will always be a need for a CDL driver to be on board.

It’s going to be interesting to see how things evolve in the realm of self-driving trucks. If you were to tell someone 5+ years ago they’d be comfortable using an app on their phone to notify a complete stranger to pick them up in their car to take them somewhere, they might think you were crazy. Yet today, services like Uber and Lyft have become the preferred methods for catching a ride. Point being, everything seems a little far fetched at first, but over time most people seem to grow more comfortable.

How long will all that take though… well, it’s just a matter of time.

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** Survey results originally published in Fleet Owner article found here.