Given the obstacles that loom, it is likely that adoption will be an evolution along these lines. We won’t see highways dotted with driverless trucks in the near term. But the economics suggest that over the long term, the industry will migrate to autonomous vehicles. Trucking companies that deploy these technologies most effectively will secure industry-leading positions, and the OEMs and suppliers that provide the equipment needed by those leading firms will claim more than their fair share of the market. The most transformative addition to the value chain will be the autonomous vehicle operating system, a software package likely to cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop. Google, now testing its system on public roads, may emerge as the supplier of a standard operating system for the industry. But car and truck manufacturers are likely already working to develop this critical component as well.
Executives at trucking companies, truck manufacturers, and equipment suppliers should start thinking through how they see this technology emerging, what the implications are for their current business model, and what they should do in response. The best approaches for each company will vary, but one thing is clear: Inaction isn’t an option. Given that heavy truck model changes occur infrequently, sometimes not for a decade or longer, ALHTs could be just one design cycle away.
Reprint No. 00176
- Peter Conway is a principal with Booz & Company’s engineered products and services practice, and is based in Chicago.
- Also contributing to this article were Booz & Company associates Antoine Cadoux, Sathya Narasimhan, and Seva Rodnyansky, and consultant Uppili Rajagopalan.