Tractor-Trailers With No One Aboard? The Future Is Near For Self-Driving Trucks On Us Roads

On a three-lane test track along the Monongahela River, an 18-wheel tractor-trailer rounded a curve. No one was on board.

A quarter-mile ahead, the truck’s sensors spotted a trash can blocking one lane and a tire in another. In less than a second, it signaled, moved into the unobstructed lane and rumbled past the obstacles.

The self-driving semi, outfitted with 25 laser, radar and camera sensors, is owned by Pittsburgh-based Aurora Innovation. Late this year, Aurora plans to start hauling freight on Interstate 45 between the Dallas and Houston areas with 20 driverless trucks.

Within three or four years, Aurora and its competitors expect to put thousands such self-driving trucks on America’s public freeways. The goal is for the trucks, which can run nearly around the clock without any breaks, to speed the flow of goods, accelerating delivery times and perhaps lowering costs. They’ll travel short distances on secondary roads, too.

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