Relay Driving Led Autonomous Vehicle Technology is the future

Siddhant MishraMay 2019

Intermediate autonomous technology and relay driving are mutually symbiotic as together, not only can they make trucking safer and cheaper but also build a strong foundation for building fully autonomous vehicle technology.

The primary goal of autonomous vehicle technology is to increase road safety and cost efficiency in the long-term. Advanced autonomous technology (Level 5) requires no human intervention and can deliver highest safety standards. However, to build Level 5 autonomous technology, one needs data to model and train algorithms on not only all known cases but also unknown cases (events that have never happened before).

While responding to unknown cases, human drivers use an instinctive framework to respond. The instinctive response comes from human consciousness which is potentially a storehouse of an individual’s ethics. It will require considerable effort to align on a code of ethics that is agreeable to society at large in order to build systems around it.

Intermediate autonomous technology (Level 3 and Level 4) are interesting as they potentially achieve the same levels of safety standards as Level 5 technology with human driver assistance. This also paves the way for Level 5 as more and more data becomes available from intermediate technology vehicles. Additionally, this can help create a framework to develop the code of ethics over time, while minimizing any immediate impact on jobs and thus reducing any possible regulatory pushback. It does not undermine the goal of building progressive technology and has the potential to reduce costs in the near term through deskilling of a driver’s job.

In the case of trucking, the biggest issue that the industry faces is a severe paucity of truck drivers. This is primarily due to a poor lifestyle culminating from spending weeks away from home for line haul truckers. The solution to the paucity of drivers is two folded and technology driven – (i) make trucking a regular day job using a driver relay system, and (ii) use semi-autonomous technology to make the job safer and more efficient. The driver relay model coupled with the level 3 autonomous vehicles cam solve the issues associated with trucking and provide a cheaper and more plausible future than fully autonomous trucking. Intermediate autonomous technology and relay driving are mutually symbiotic as together, not only can they make trucking safer and cheaper but also build a strong foundation for building fully autonomous vehicle technology.

  • 38% of India’s GDP is contributed to by Agriculture (15%) and Manufacturing (28%).
  • 25% of the road freight spend in the country is by the agriculture sector. Due to very short shelf lives of the products moved and the seasonality of the industry, almost the entire agricultural produce transportation is done on spot bookings.
  • Rest of the 75% of the road freight is by the manufacturing sector. MSMEs contribute 6% to the manufacturing GDP of India by value but as high as 34% by volume. MSMEs, due to their low relative production volumes and drop sizes, operate on spot markets for freight bookings. Hence, this adds another 25% of the road freight spend to spot transactions.
  • In the remaining 50% of spend, driven by medium and large sized firms, transportation partners typically operate with owned and market fleet to meet client guidelines on service levels. A large sized steel maker can mandate transporters to have up to 30-40% owned fleet. However, rarely does a transporter have both onward and return leg contractual agreements. Transporters for mid and large size firms cannot have more than 15-20% of total ton-km booked on contractual basis.
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