Research Outline

Autonomous Trucking Pain Points


To understand the challenge of the autonomous trucking industry and potentially address it by identifying the biggest pain point of companies working to make autonomous trucking a reality.

Early Findings

The two biggest challenges in the autonomous trucking industry are in technology and business model.

Technological Challenge

  • The head of autonomous mobility at the World Economic Forum Michelle Avary provided that the industry has not adequately addressed the issue of ensuring that autonomous driving technology is working correctly. Its technological challenge is in terms of perception to include identifying objects and understanding how to move around them.
  • Trucks are already using increased levels of "advanced driver assistance systems functionality." However, perception technology for autonomous trucking would have to be further developed beyond that for cars since they would be used at high speeds and have longer braking distances.
  • Autonomous trucking requires additional improvements in "sensor suite technology (radar, lidar, camera, etc.)" and software.
  • ICE trucks have more severe vibration levels, which would have implications for long-term component reliability. These trucks would most likely be used in long-haul, thus leading to such issues, especially if "mechanical non-solid-state solutions" are deployed.

Business Model

  • The business model for the autonomous trucking industry is quite unclear. While some companies are developing the tech to sell it as an autonomous vehicle, other parties are considering utilizing a transport-as-a-service model that would cost around 40-50 cents per driven kilometer.
  • The first model will face a more significant barrier to purchase despite following the classic car-sell model. Many truck fleet operators would find it challenging to generate enough capital expenditure to accommodate the significantly higher cost of autonomous trucks as their finances are set up to handle their operating costs.
  • The second model will be easier to purchase, more easily marketed, generate income faster, as well as provide the opportunity to "gather data, iterate, and improve the design, especially the software." However, the cost and risk of maintaining autonomous trucks would be a significant challenge for startups.