Mixed fleets with autonomous long-haul trucks and traditional human-driven regional routes could help the trucking industry address the problem of an aging driver workforce, said Uber in a recent company blog post.
Uber argued that rather than a future of autonomous trucks replacing human drivers, the technology could be used to both alleviate the driver shortage and help make the existing driving jobs more appealing to younger prospective drivers.
Uber stated that the truck driving workforce is currently much older than the average workforce, creating an acute driver shortage in the coming years. During that time, freight demand is expected to increase and would require an influx of around 900,000 drivers to keep up with demand.
The company states that using a system of transfer hubs, the transportation industry could meld mixed fleets of autonomous trucks with more localized traditional trucks in order to meet the growing demand.
Strategically placed around the country, these transfer hubs could receive goods specifically designed for highway driving. The freight would be delivered to and from hubs where regional trucks would distribute the freight to its final destination.
This method would also help accelerate the usefulness of current self-driving technology which is already being tested on open highways but still faces technical hurdles when it comes to urban environments, complex loading docks or even navigating through transportation facilities.
Uber also believes that the shift toward short-haul jobs could gradually move the trucking industry away from per-mile pay to a more traditional hourly model.