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Future technologies and transport – impact on the logistics industry

Future technologies and transport – impact on the logistics industry

Technologies change at dazzling speed, and the world of logistics is no exception here. Last year, for instance, we saw the first self-driving truck taking the road, while in Germany new devices and sensors are being tested on the motorway stretch between Munich and Nuremberg in coming years.

The purpose of these tests is the optimising of autonomous driving and communication via sensors. Autonomous driving is a familiar notion by now, with examples like automatic order picking in large warehouses and unmanned shuttles at airports. The use of communication via sensors makes it possible to alert drivers miles in advance in case of slippery roads or road obstructions. But how are these new technologies affecting the logistics industry? And how far are we prepared to go?

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Impact on the logistics industry

Current technological developments may turn out a huge benefit to the world of logistics. The main costs for the haulage industry cover fuel, staffing and CO2-emissions, and it is precisely these items that may be restricted by using autonomous vehicles.

As positioning smart sensors in motorways could make it possible for drivers to avoid crowded areas, this will make a difference in both staffing and fuel costs. A driver will, after all, be on the road for shorter periods while the engine need not be running or idling too long. Apart from saving fuel, this also means forcing back CO2-emissions and mitigating the impact on the environment.

Introduction still a long way off

The logistics industry obviously embraces these new technologies even more readily than any other industry – having been using autonomous vehicles and machinery for years by now. Actual introduction of self-driving vehicles in traffic environments, on the other hand, would still appear to be a long way off. There are several aspects here that cannot just be brushed aside or ignored. Studies have attempted to measure general acceptance of autonomous vehicles, producing varying results. Commuters consider the time gained by being driven as positive, while on the other hand it has been found that a majority take the view that people outscore computers when it comes down to taking decisions behind the wheel.

Apart from public acceptance there is the important aspect of liability. Right now, the driver and owner of a vehicle bears liability for what happens. So when it concerns an autonomous trip, would this liability shift to the manufacturer of the vehicle? At the moment, manufacturers may only be held liable in case of technical shortcomings; the basis, in fact, of insurance policies.

Where autonomous vehicles will sooner or later become part of traffic environments, big steps first require to be taken, from both a technical and an ethical viewpoint. As we are interested in finding out about your views, please communicate your response to this article or use one of our other social media channels.

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