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Will emerging tech improve commercial trucking safety?

With the onset of automobiles and paved roads in the early 20th century came commercial trucking. Since commercial trucking’s debut, their presence has been a necessary evil on the roadways. While there is no doubt that our society relies heavily on the goods delivered by trucks, there is also no doubt that they are extremely dangerous.

In 2016, Ohio saw 6,274 injuries involving heavy commercial trucks and 144 deaths.

As technology improves, the average lifespan of humans increases. Thankfully, some of that modern technological ingenuity is making its way into the trucking industry through something called platooning.

Platooning

Emerging vehicle technology, called platooning, digitally tethers convoys of two or more trucks together to increase fuel efficiency as well as increase safety.

The typical following distance for commercial trucks is 500-545 feet. While platooned, the distance is reduced to thirty to fifty feet. With little to no distance between platooned semi-trucks, drivers and semi-trucks are separated, reducing the risk of collisions.

According to automotive journalist, Susan Carpenter, “With the simple press of a finger, trucks fall in line behind the leader, saving fuel and making trucks safer than even the best Class 8 semi-tractors on the road today.”

It appears that the trucking industry is gearing up to go autonomous, which would significantly change transportation as we know it. Going autonomous will still require human input, according to analyst Antti Lindstrom, he likened it to "...aircraft, where the plane itself does the flying for most of a trip but pilots take over for landing and taxiing.”

While tightly grouping commercial trucks through platooning and reducing the chance of human error through automation can't come soon enough, we have to be patient. The technology will take some time to roll out. In the meantime, continue practicing safe driving habits in the presence of trucks knowing that increased safety is just around the corner.

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