As in any industry there are many companies that strive for innovation, and logistics is no different. With there being more and more vehicles on the road in the UK and road traffic accidents increasing, logistics companies are finding ways to reduce losses, increase productivity and ensure schedules are met.
One of the most popular ideas at the moment is autonomous driving, as seen in films such as Logan, iRobot & Blade Runner. Large companies like DHL and UPS are working with researchers to develop the technology to allow Logistics vehicles to be driven autonomously.
According to the Department of Transport there are over 37.5 million transport vehicles on the road in Britain, which is an increase of 7 million since 2007, of which around 12% are logistics vehicles. With this number continuously rising the risk for accidents and delays will only increase.
One of the potential benefits for autonomous driving is that it could reduce driver error and decrease the amount of accidents on the road in the UK. A positive for logistics companies is that with there being no need for a driver, vehicles would be able to drive 24 hours per day without rest or breaks (aside from refuelling), meaning that goods could be transported further without stops.
Also, this would mean that more goods could be transported during unsociable hours; driving at night when the roads are quieter, and the risk of accidents is reduced. In the last year HGV driving applications have dropped by 32,000 meaning that autonomous driving could come at a very convenient time when less people are interested in becoming a driver (possibly due to the long working hours).
One of the main negatives that comes with autonomous driving is the resulting reduction in the need for human employees, thousands of drivers that have chosen to remain within the industry would be without a job if self-driving vehicles become mainstream. Along with this, a big concern is whether the technology will have the ability to adjust and deal with ongoing situations on the road.
Currently autonomous vehicles are still under development, with safety being a massive concern. Earlier this year, a US based woman was tragically killed when she was struck by a self-driving car, part of taxi giant Uber’s fleet. The driverless car was supposedly kitted out with technology to prevent such accidents – the publicity generated has placed doubts in the mind of the public regarding the safety of driverless vehicles.
If autonomous driving does become common practice, widespread legal changes would be required when it comes to liability for losses and accidents. According to the Guardian, the Law Commission will have laws in place by 2021 to provide clarity on who will be liable should there be any accidents involving an autonomous vehicle.
With consumers ordering more goods and with the increase in vehicles on the road, could this be the remedy to the dreaded commuter traffic, whilst helping to reduce accidents? I believe that, as with all innovation, there will be some push back. However, if the technology is ready, and not rushed to the market before safety and legal aspects have been covered, this can only be a benefit for the logistics industry both in the UK and worldwide.
Written by David Cohen – Recruitment Consultant – Shipping, Logistics & Supply Chain at Alchemy Global Talent Solutions