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I-95 named second-best launchpad for autonomous trucking in U.S.

Jacksonville Business Journal - September 20, 2018 - by Will Robinson - read full article here

INRIX, an international research firm, ranked I-95 as the second most promising starting point for autonomous trucking in the United States based on congestion, traffic incidents, freight volumes and more in a study published this week.

I-95 from Jacksonville to Miami ranked no. 1 in the U.S. for projected commercial returns, while I-75 from Valdosta to Miami ranked third. Both interstates were named top five for highly autonomous vehicle deployment in INRIX's Automated Freight Corridor Assessment.

Rob Hooper, CEO of of Jacksonville-based Atlantic Logistics, has spoken at national conferences about the economics of autonomous trucks, a technology he sees as inevitable. Interstates are the perfect place to begin implementing autonomous trucks, he noted, because they provide commercial benefits in stable traffic conditions.

"Interstates will be the first place automation will be utilized," said Hooper. "There's no pedestrians, no red lights. It's made to flow."

Long-haul autonomous trucks would bring massive economic benefits, Hooper noted. The autonomous vehicles would be able to run 24 hours a day, versus human drivers' 11-hour cap, more than doubling the asset's use and allowing freight volumes to move more heavily at night to avoid peak congestion. There would be no driver to pay, a savings of 40 cents per mile. Insurance costs would plummet, while safety incidents would almost vanish. Fuel costs could be slashed, too, as autonomous trucks calculate their most efficient speeds.

"Once it's doable and safe, the phase-in period is going to be dramatic," said Hooper. "Every incentive is going to be for massive, immediate adoption of this. Consolidation in the trucking industry is going to be huge."

There will still be plenty that humans need to do, Hooper noted. Delivery drivers and intercity drivers aren't going away any time soon, according to Hooper, and specialized and large freight that doesn't fit in containers are hard for autonomous vehicles to accommodate. But the autonomous trucks could help fill the shortage of drivers in long-haul trucking, where the national driver shortage is most dire.

"In many ways, it could be a better situation for drivers," said Hooper, noting that long-haul drivers are the hardest to recruit and retain given the time drivers spend away from their homes.

The technology also adds to the trucking industry's ability to lure freight from trains.

"This is going to be a major competitor to rail as soon as it's viable," said Hooper. "It's going to be very disruptive."

However, Jacksonville-based CSX Corp. (Nasdaq: CSX) CFO Frank Lonegro told the Business Journal in June that the rail industry has autonomous ambitions of its own.

"There's a lot of buzz in the media about autonomous vehicles," said Lonegro. "There needs to be buzz about autonomous trains or semi-autonomous trains."

Click here to learn more about transportation in Clay!

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