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Business and Technology Insights

Freight Trucking – A Driverless Road Ahead

 
March 23, 2018

The airplane industry has seen a massive transformation. The autopilot technology has reinvented logistics strengths and capabilities. As planes fly with minimal human intervention, pilots have overcome flight time limitations. You can now enjoy cross-country long haul flights like never before.

Supply chain logistics is on the brink of a similar revolution. And freight trucking is on the frontline of this deep change. Anheuser-Busch, Budweiser’s parent company shipped 45,000 cans of Budweiser beer using an autonomously driven truck fitted with technology from Uber’s self-driving truck subsidiary Otto in October of 2016. This is the first real-world commercial use of driverless trucks – the latest addition to an array of logistics innovations. Forward looking companies are using the Digital Five Forces including cloud computing, mobility and pervasive computing, Big Data analytics, social media, and artificial intelligence to commission fully unmanned vehicles to firepower their business operations.

To stay competitive, organizations have to make serious alterations to increase their trucking efficiency. Trucks are the most expensive part of a transport logistics supply chain. To that, driverless trucks offer a promising solution. As autonomously driven trucks adjust speed based on terrain and weather conditions leading to optimized fuel use, businesses can benefit from monetary savings resulting from such driving efficiency. Peloton technology’s ‘Truck Platooning’ helps save an average of 10% on the cost of fuel. This is a real life application of MIT’s research on fuel savings arising from a reduction of drag for trucks driving in a convoy. This has another interesting impact. The environment benefits from driverless technology as the ensuing pollution is greatly reduced.

From a supply chain perspective, this technology eliminates the uncertainties in delivery. Driverless trucks can be on the road longer because, there aren’t any legal driving-time limitations. Autonomous trucks also eliminate accidents that are caused due to human error. They can interact with the surrounding traffic conditions and gauge the safest driving response to increase driver and pedestrian safety. This helps avoid possible accidents, and the technology makes on-time and error-free delivery of products possible.

Nevertheless, the technology is in the early stages, and just as any other new technology, it demands a willingness to work with it and a well thought out road map for advantageous deployment.

The ultimate goal of a successful organization is to reach optimization at every level in a supply chain. Innovation in technology is propelling supply chains closer and closer to this goal. And the time for driverless trucks is now. Not only do they promise a future where human-error related truck fatalities are a minimum but also that deliveries are made on time. They save the environment while also saving money. As in the case of autopilot in airplanes, driverless trucks will revamp logistics drastically. Are you ready for a world of driverless delivery? Read my whitepaper When there’s Naught in the Juggernaut: Autonomous Trucking Beckons to know more about the numerous advantages and competitive edge that driverless trucking enables for your business.

Sudeep Dayal is part of the Consulting and Service Integration practice at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). He is a certified supply chain professional (APICS CSCP) with over six years of experience in the supply chain domain. Sudeep has deep knowledge in sourcing operations including supplier selection, supplier handling, ordering and costing, quotation management, localization of parts, as well as R&D ideas implementation. He has worked on account planning, S&OP planning, demand forecasting, sourcing and procurement, and SAP IBP implementation. Sudeep holds an MBA in finance and operations, along with a mechanical engineering degree.