Vehicle autonomy is currently a very active area of innovation in the transportation industry. While it has the potential to bring huge improvements in comfort and safety, some quarters are concerned about a certain economic impact of this technology: the impact on jobs. This impact would mostly be felt in the commercial vehicle sector, such as highway trucking and pickup and delivery.
A reasonable compromise between a fully autonomous future with no human drivers versus an efficient transportation system with significant human presence would be a commercial transportation system that comprises of remotely piloted vehicles. This would also require a quicker time to market since much of the technology to enable this concept already exists. If drones can be flown thousands of miles away, it should not be a big technical hurdle to implement this.
The concept would consist of piloting centers where human drivers would remotely pilot vehicles for commercial and personal use. Existing drivers could easily be retrained to perform this task, and would be able to work in a much more comfortable environment compared to their current one. In addition, this framework would enable advanced concepts like truck platooning, where a single driver could pilot a platoon.
Many of the benefits of an autonomous transportation infrastructure can be realized
via this approach at a lower cost. In fact, this may be an accelerator for some of this technologies.
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