Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Impact on Flatbed Transportation

Artificial Intelligence





Artificial intelligence, abbreviated as A.I., is becoming increasingly relevant to the world as we know it. It is difficult to avoid a topic relating to A.I. when discussing any industry; whether that be in finance, health care, or transportation.  Artificial intelligence is poised to make a significant impact on the future of our industries. There is a substantial level of support in favor of A.I. technology, but there is also a strong opposition to artificial intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Impact on Flatbed Transportation

The motivations for the supporters of A.I. are clear; to make the way we do business, the way we operate, the way we live more efficient with the help of robots. Those in opposition to A.I. are not necessarily arguing against it, but rather they are concerned about how it is being developed and how it will be used in our lives. In other words, this opposition group is not discrediting the potential benefits of artificial intelligence, rather, they are cautious that it will be not developed safely. Safely meaning that we will be able to create new A.I. technology without creating a doomsday scenario where super-intelligent robots now rule the world. One of the most outspoken and famous individuals currently trying to detract from the A.I. train is Elon Musk; the bold, billionaire, serial entrepreneur; the founder of Paypal, Tesla, and SpaceX. Musk is well aware of the potential threats of developing highly intelligent robots. Musk has become a spokesperson for the potential negativity that could come from the unregulated development of artificial intelligence. To combat it, Musk helped found Open A.I., a non-profit A.I. research company with the mission to develop friendly and beneficial A.I. to humanity. One industry where A.I. is looking to make major changes is in the transportation sector.

Artificial intelligence allows for the ability to automate tasks. Meaning that jobs that were previously held by a human could now be operated by robots. Large companies such as Uber, Google, and Tesla are all working on autonomous driving technology and vehicles. As these companies push the artificial intelligence frontier, it is only a matter of time before automation makes its mark on flatbed trucking companies. Analysts predict it will be roughly 5 to 10 years before this technology hits the roads and with government regulation, that could be an underestimation of the timeline needed to get self-driving vehicles, let alone self-driving flatbed trucks on the road. Ordinary cars with the ability to drive themselves are complicated enough, when you consider the perils and complications of having a heavy piece of equipment like a flatbed truck on interstates with expensive cargo, it is difficult to see how this technology can advance in order to ensure greater safety than the humans behind the wheel so quickly. Safety is naturally a concern, especially for a flatbed truck company, but there are some clear advantages for creating this technology. A recurring issue for the trucking industry is that there are not enough drivers for the amount of shipping that is done. Self-driving trucks could alleviate some of the burden that drivers and shippers face by increasing the amount of vehicles on the road. Another advantage is that this technology could allow flatbed drivers to circumvent driving restrictions on travel time. The technology could work with drivers, when the driver needs a break or is about to exceed their mandated hours of travel, they can have the A.I. take over for them while they rest, all the while the drivers don’t experience any sort of slowdown in transit time, this could actually cut transit times for flatbed shipping. Flatbed drivers are not likely to be phased out altogether in the foreseeable future, rather this technology should work with carriers. As this technology becomes increasingly more relevant in the next decade or so, transportation will see a see a shift, especially the flatbed shipping industry. Driving jobs for truck operators will likely experience a decreased demand. This change would likely not occur for several decades because the technology would have to become cheap enough and widespread for it to become the norm. Southern and western states with a large population of their workforce being made up of drivers could experience negative effects as well. One thing is for sure, what this technology implies for the future is not entirely clear yet. Not only is A.I. going to change the way businesses function, it is going to change the way entire industries operate; especially in the transportation sector as companies jockey for position at the top of the A.I. ladder. Whether that change is going to be for better or for worse has yet to be seen, only time will tell.

Contributing Editor,

David Bansleben