The first driverless vehicle to hit the open road in the US may not be a car, but a truck. In fact, one company has already put to test its soon-to-be the first driverless vehicle in the US.
This new innovation is being seen as a major boost in the safety of workers working in the construction industry. It might particularly benefit the road workers, who always tend to be at a risk of getting struck by a vehicle, especially while working on congested roads.
The statistics really reflect how dangerous work zone jobs can be for the workers. A recent study by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration revealed that as many as 576 road workers died due to work zone fatalities in 2010 alone.
While the Truck Mounted Attenuator trucks (TMAs) did manage to provide the required safety to the construction workers, as well as the motorists who often fail to react to the truck’s warning lights in time, the drivers still used to be at risk. However, the new Autonomous TMAs are expected to take it a level up, with even the drivers not having to risk themselves.
A look at the concept
Without going into the technical, ATMAs (Autonomous TMAs) basically use an advanced technology and GPS to follow a human-driven vehicle. The human-driven vehicle has a “pilot” device attached to it, which helps the ATMA follow it by detecting its movement using GPS technology.
Now, an important thing to note here that these are exactly the type of vehicles the construction industry is looking for. This is because many reports have already been released talking about how driverless trucks might lead to a large number of drivers being left jobless.
However, the ATMAs we are talking about still requires a human-driven vehicle, meaning that the drivers will still be required to do what they currently do, but with a significantly high level of safety.
ATMAs are now believed to be one of the biggest developments in surface transportation, and construction industry is going to be the biggest gainers from it. The driverless ATMAs are believed to be just as beneficial for it as driverless cars will be for consumers.
Major developments coming up
Most major automobile manufacturers in the country are actively working on the autonomous vehicle technology, with Google and Tesla Motors being believed to be some of the first major companies to launch Autonomous vehicles.
In fact, two autonomous trucks are already expected to launch in the near future at highway construction sites in Florida.
Two big concerns
There are some concerning issues with ATMAs and other Autonomous vehicles. The first one is that things may soon get to a level where “more automated” vehicles would be launched, resulting in huge job losses. In fact, there are already reports of drivers losing jobs in Canada since the launch of automated haulage systems (AHS).
The second major concern is that the vehicle’s system could be hacked and taken over. While this doesn’t seem to be a major threat yet, the manufacturers will surely have to put in quite a bit of efforts into ensuring the security systems in the vehicles are indeed safe enough from all types of hacking attacks.
About the author: Taylor Ryan, Head of Marketing, GenieBelt, simple construction management solution, both for small businesses and enterprises.
Edited by Ken Briodagh