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The driverless car will certainly play an important role in your supply chain optimization within the upcoming years. Last year, we wrote an article about self-driving cars and how they will change the supply chain. We hear so much about self-driving cars, but the first prototypes still haven’t hit the open road.

So the question remains: what are the most current developments on these self-driving dream machines that will revolutionize the supply chain? We can tell you this much, driverless cars are definitely coming. Soon. Here we’ll answer three of the most common questions about the status of self-driving cars:

What Recent Policy Changes Have Affected Self-Driving Vehicles? 

In April 2017, the trucking industry aimed to introduce regulations for self-driving trucks. Some of their concerns included the idea that fewer truck drivers would be able to find work, accident liability, and service regulation hours. Additionally, they wanted the levels of autonomy to be considered; industry specialists suggest that most trucks should remain at Level 3 autonomy – or a driver should remain in the cab – to retain safety.

The government panel that heard their concerns said they would create regulations in the industry that would promote safety as the technology develops.  

When is the First Self-Driving Car Expected to Become Available?

We’ve all been patiently waiting to purchase a self-driving car but nothing has hit the market. Was it all just a PR stunt? 

We’re happy to report that your supply chain optimization dreams have been answered and the car is indeed coming. The first self-driving car is expected to debut in 2020. The Audi and NVIDIA created car has already undergone many tests, and is expected to be able to navigate through complex highway conditions without human intervention. But before that happens, the United States will have to grapple with regulations for these vehicles, while automakers and sellers will have to consider how self-driving cars will operate.

Have There Been Any Updates to the Self-Driving Technology? 

There are over 40 companies currently working on developing self-driving technologies, including Ford, Fiat, Google, and Apple, just to name a few.

One of the biggest hurdles in developing technologies is considering how these vehicles will navigate in complex cities. Waymo, a driving technology designed by former Google engineers, has teamed up with the rideshare company Lyft to further develop its technology. The company uses self-driving technologies to improve vehicles’ perception of unusual obstacles in the road, including pedestrians, animals, roadwork, and cyclists from up to two football fields away.

However, while this kind of safety is necessary for navigating cities, the driver-less vehicles most often used in supply chains – long-haul trucks – face fewer difficulties in navigating highways. That’s why the long-haul truck could be one of the first driver-less vehicles – because the environment is so often controlled. In fact, Volvo, equipped with OTTO – a self-driving technology designed for supply chain delivery – has been test-driving for nearly a year on Interstate 280 and Freeway 101 in California.

Although self-driving vehicles are still several years off, you already need to start thinking about how they could affect your supply chain optimization strategy. With so many regulatory, safety, and navigation challenges at this stage, you might want to consider how these vehicles could affect your business – and then make sure your voice is heard.

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About Michael Wilson

Michael Wilson is AFFLINK'S Vice President of Marketing and Communications. He has been with the organization since 2005 and provides strategic leadership for the entire supply chain team. In his free time, Michael enjoys working with the Wounded Warrior Project, fishing, and improving his cooking skills.

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