Danish CEO sees driverless trucks within decade

By Christian Wienberg

The chief of the Nordic region's biggest transport company predicts the trucks he relies on eill start operating without drivers within 10 years. Photo / Getty Images
The chief of the Nordic region's biggest transport company predicts the trucks he relies on eill start operating without drivers within 10 years. Photo / Getty Images

The chief executive officer of the Nordic region's biggest road transport company predicts the trucks he relies on can start operating without drivers within the next 5-10 years.

Jens Bjoern Andersen, who drives a Tesla to work every day, giving him a first-hand view of how the technology is advancing, says the know-how is already there. His company, DSV, is looking into the opportunities that self-driving trucks will create for the world's fourth-largest freight forwarder.

"All we need is the regulatory steps and perhaps a fine-tuning of the technology," Andersen said in a phone interview. "Sometimes, when I drive home from work, I go most of the way almost without touching the brake or the gas and I only need to hold my hands on the steering wheel because the law says I must. But the technology is already there."

The first step will probably allow driverless trucks on highways, possibly in a lane reserved for other self-driving vehicles, the CEO said. It will probably take a lot longer before the technology is used in cities, he said.

"Fully self-driving trucks that also handle the distribution stage in big cities like Paris, London or Copenhagen, are many years away," he said.

"On the last stage of the distribution, you need to bring goods in and out of the truck all the time, you have the city traffic, the cyclists and all that, so you really need a human there."

DSV has more than 20,000 trucks on the road around the world every day. But most of those are owned by independent drivers.

In 2015, the trucks drove about 1.9 billion kilometers (1.2 billion miles), or 2,500 times the distance to the moon and back. This year it will be further still after DSV acquired US rival UTi Worldwide for $1.35 billion.

Self-driving trucks are an opportunity for the logistics business because it would help lower the costs of operating the vehicles through better fuel efficiency.

All this won't change just because there's no longer a driver behind the wheel.

"If it then becomes cheaper, it will be good for our clients and we will do what we can to protect the margins we have," Andersen said. He doesn't see the development as a threat to workers either.

"You need people who handle the goods, who consolidate the packaging, who utilize the truck capacity, who fill out customs forms, who advise clients," he said.

"All this won't change just because there's no longer a driver behind the wheel."

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 11 Dec 2016 08:34:28 Processing Time: 627ms