If driverless cars are in the near future, why not a superhighway of autonomous trucks linking Mexico and Canada?
The project is currently being considered by members of the Central North American Trade Corridor Association (CNATCA), and would consist of a robot-only corridor running along Route 83 through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and on into Manitoba.
One of the main reasons for a robot road like this, according to Marlo Anderson of the CNATCA, is that North Dakota produces a lot of oil right now, and doesn’t have a great way to get it all where it needs to go. Sure, there are trains, but there’s not enough space to be had. That, and the jury-rigged cars that carry the oil keep exploding. Trucks can help ease the pressure, especially if they don’t need drivers…
There are plenty of problems to solve before any of this would be possible though, including self-driving car laws in half a dozen US states, some way of having driver-less robo-rigs cross borders into and out of the United States, and security in place to make sure no one tries to exploit that system. But robot roads like this one—if it happens—could pave the way to wider acceptance of self-driving vehicles that really do take care of it all themselves. Even if we’re not ready to have them on the road with us just yet.
Advantages include safer roads, no time restrictions on the trucks, lower labor costs, and presumably cheaper goods and/or more money to be made. Disadvantages include lost trucking jobs, a long period of time to put this all together, and perhaps the biggest hurdle for now: what exactly would such a highway cost to build and maintain? Do we need a fleet of herding vehicles to service the trucks and highway?
I wonder what the final arguments regarding this might look like: perhaps safety on the trucking side (how can you argue with a safer driving experience?) versus the steady erosion of jobs greased by free trade (this time to autonomous vehicles).