A decade from now, the autonomous truck will be a reality disrupting the wholesale, retail and logistics sector. The electric, connected truck will both protect the environment and deliver technological performance.

On the road to the self-driving vehicle, the electric car may be overtaken by the truck. A study by PwC, “The era of digitized trucking: transforming the logistics value chain” reinforces the idea that it will take time to resolve the safety issues raised by the use of the driverless car in the city, but that the ignition has already been turned on for the connected truck. In addition, it has an electric motor: Tesla announced at the end of 2017 that it will be introducing a battery-powered truck with a driving range of 800 km.

“The truck will soon be integrated in the real-time logistics information system that connects the entire goods transport value chain.”

According to PwC, the arrival of the driverless truck in most industrialised countries by 2030 will have an impact on the road haulage market and beyond that on the retail and e-commerce industries. In France, for example, road haulage accounts for 87% of goods transport. Meanwhile, distributors such as Amazon are seeking to control all aspects of delivery. PwC says that “The truck will soon be integrated in the real-time logistics information system that connects the entire goods transport value chain, from the supplier to warehouses, distributors and the final customer.”

Cost reductions

The technology disruption is expected to result in a 5% reduction in the cost of logistics and maintenance for transport companies by 2020 and a 10% reduction by 2030. The savings will be primarily due to the two-thirds reduction in the cost of the truck driver. However, “The human being will remain at the heart of the value chain, but will be reassigned to different tasks,” says the lead author of the PwC study. The “last kilometre” issue remains, as does the issue of customer contact at delivery. It is expected that new jobs will be created.

“Platooning”

The combination of connectivity and processing of data tracked by sensors of all types is making the conquest of autonomy possible. Connections with fixed facilities such as toll stations and parking areas, as well as with companies, can lead to improved itineraries as well as to optimisation of the logistics chain, with virtually real-time adaptation of supply and demand. Trucks will be connected with each other to exchange traffic and travel time information in real time. This will enable them to form convoys in a “platooning” system that will better control travel and save energy. The arrival of the Tesla truck will dispel the idea that the internal combustion engine is needed for long-distance travel. “Autonomy fosters electric solutions for haulage,” says Laura Brimont, a researcher at the Institut du développement durable et des relations internationales. The autonomous truck will be safer and more environmentally friendly. The digital transformation meets the energy transition – on the road.