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Can a Self-Driving 40-Ton Truck Be Safe? Developers Say Yes

  • Supply-chain woes spotlight promise, peril of autonomous rigs
  • Automated truck pilots abound despite safety, labor obstacles
Aurora Innovation tests its software, the Aurora Driver, with human vehicle operators on public roads in Texas.
Aurora Innovation tests its software, the Aurora Driver, with human vehicle operators on public roads in Texas.Source: Aurora Innovation Inc.
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Shipping companies and software developers are experimenting with self-driving trucks as a way to solve a driver shortage worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, drawing fire from safety advocates who call the technology a risk to motorists.

J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc.., Uber Technologies Inc.’s freight division and FedEx Corp. are among the operators testing automated big rigs as a lack of drivers has caused ports to back up and intensified the supply-chain squeeze gripping the U.S. economy. While self-driving trucks are still years from winning regulatory approval, pioneers of the technology see it as a long-term solution to an increasingly intractable labor problem.