Uber Freight outlined a broad vision of how robotic trucking will work, noting human drivers will continue to play a significant but changing role in cargo hauling.
The division said in a Thursday blog post and accompanying white paper that autonomous trucking represents a solution to the persistent professional driver shortage and other supply chain obstacles.
It believes the commercialization of autonomous driving will start with a hub-to-hub model based on highway-adjacent depots. Humans will drive freight to the hub through urban and heavy traffic areas. The robot truck will take the cargo onto a highway to a destination hub. Humans will transport the freight through that metropolitan area to the final endpoint.
“Uber Freight envisions a future where autonomous trucks and human drivers operate alongside one another in a hybrid network to ease the burden of increased freight demand, enhance truck drivers’ quality of life and create more value for everyone in the supply chain,” the company wrote.
Although Uber Freight is an outgrowth of the ride-hailing company, it sees trucking beating robotaxis to the first broad use of autonomous driving. It has developed a digital system to match motor carriers and truckers to companies seeking cargo transport.
“Highway driving has limited complexity, so it is technically easier than driving in an urban environment,” Mike Ramsey, senior analyst for automotive and smart mobility at Gartner, told Automotive News.
The shortage of drivers, increasing demand for moving packages and the need to improve safety are pushing the technology into freight hauling, he said.