Consultants from Roland Berger study why the maturation of autonomous truck tech would not essentially imply the market is ready for it
Autonomous vans have gone by means of a classical hype cycle. After some bullish bulletins early on and inflated expectations concerning the timing, gamers have modified their view on what is possible within the mid-term. Slower-than-expected expertise progress and questions of safety have additional pushed again these timelines. Now, it feels the fog is clearing and the roadmap, at the very least for the approaching years, feels extra steady.
The following milestone: ‘driver out’
Autonomous truck gamers have come a good distance in coaching their techniques on more and more complicated driving eventualities. Simply 5 years again, autonomous drivers have been able to performing solely easy capabilities comparable to sustaining lane place and performing lane adjustments; techniques have since been developed to deal with surprising cut-ins, merges, evening driving, additional ranges of inclement climate, and even building websites. Many autonomous truck gamers are near implementing the total set of capabilities that an autonomous driver requires or are presently fixing the final remaining challenges, comparable to pulling over to the highway shoulder or inspections.
From a complete addressable market perspective, about 40% of all on-road freight visitors could possibly be dealt with by autonomous vans
The main target for many gamers is now shifting from increasing the aptitude set and the working design area of the automobile to validating and bettering their techniques. Gamers will use 2023 to show the protection capabilities of their expertise. Security incidents, like these seen in 2022, could impression this total supply timeline, but when issues run easily, driver out operations could be anticipated in 2024.
Whereas the flexibility to deal with edge instances is crucial for driver out operation, having a protected motion as fallback, the place the automobile involves a managed cease in a protected location, is equally crucial. Within the early section of adoption, we’ll see autonomous vans sitting in a protected mode on the highway shoulder whereas a distant operator in an on-ground assist group takes over. Whereas this shall be possible if the numbers of autonomous vans in operation are small, the assist wanted, and thus the working value, should come down ultimately. Driver-out autonomous vans won’t be instantly value aggressive with typical vans, even after accounting for the price of human assist. This proves that the driving force out milestone is essential, however theoretical. It determines the start line of the market adoption curve, however the pace of adoption shall be decided by each technological developments and shopper behaviour.
Business adoption nonetheless far-off
Parallel to expertise improvement, autonomous truck gamers are engaged on commercialising their autonomous drivers. To speed up market adoption, a number of gamers have chosen a enterprise mannequin the place they act as carriers hauling freight for purchasers with their very own fleet of autonomous vans. The variety of masses dealt with remains to be very low at this time however will develop as extra clients signal on and routes are expanded. Within the mid-term, autonomous truck gamers may even make their expertise obtainable to conventional truck carriers, doubtless by means of a pay-per-use subscription mannequin.
As soon as the expertise is commercially obtainable, a big market potential could be tapped. From a complete addressable market perspective, about 40% of all on-road freight visitors could possibly be dealt with by autonomous vans. That is the share of freight visitors that, at this time, is dealt with by mixture vans and travels a distance of at the very least 200 miles. Shorter routes will, at the very least initially, not be economical whereas vans nonetheless function in a switch hub mannequin with pricey first and final mile drays.
Adoption won’t occur in a single day
A number of near- and mid-term constraints will decide the pace of market adoption. Whereas driver out operation is feasible from a regulatory perspective in most US states, together with Texas the place freight volumes are concentrated, some states, particularly California, particularly prohibit autonomous trucking, limiting short-term adoption potential. Additionally, as OEMs and expertise gamers don’t all function on the identical timeline, completely different ranges of OEM readiness will end in staggered market entry, limiting automobile provide.
If issues run easily, driver out operations could be anticipated in 2024
In the direction of the tip of the last decade, market adoption shall be decided extra by the operational readiness of fleets and their threat profile. Generally, tuck carriers are gradual to undertake new applied sciences. This has been the case prior to now with each telematics and lower-level superior driver help techniques, and can doubtless be the case with autonomous expertise. Unionised fleets will face extra resistance. As well as, fleets want to alter their working mannequin and combine drayage runs into their operations to assist the switch hub mannequin of autonomous trucking. Whereas gamers will deal with high-density routes firstly, such because the Texas Triangle, routes with decrease freight density will ultimately have to be unlocked. To function on these routes with the identical ROI that gamers are used to from excessive density routes, expertise prices should proceed to say no. Lastly, provider consolidation is required to drive market adoption past the trade’s massive fleets and gamers.
Reaching full market penetration requires ‘unlocking’ many capillary routes, and ultimately expertise that’s able to dealing with dock-to-dock operations. Accounting for 1 / 4 of the freight visitors by the mid-2030s would nonetheless imply speedy adoption, particularly when in comparison with different equally disruptive automotive improvements comparable to electrical powertrains. It took nearly three a long time between the discharge of the primary purpose-built electrical vehicles within the mid-Nineteen Nineties and at this time’s full-scale manufacturing.
Walter Rentzsch is a Director at Roland Berger; Wilfried Aulbur is Senior Companion at Roland Berger