Safety, savings fuel push for driverless trucks

Thu Jan 21, 2016 1:29am EST
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By Byron Kaye and Toby Sterling

SYDNEY/AMSTERDAM Jan 21 (Reuters) - After decades checking their rearview mirrors for the threat from rail and air transport, truckers around the world are facing their latest rival head-on: driverless trucks.

As companies from Toyota Motor Corp to Google parent Alphabet Inc race to develop driverless technology, trucking companies are seeing the potential to cut costs by nearly half and improve safety.

Already in Australia, the world's most truck-dependent nation, mining giants such as Rio Tinto are using remote controlled lorries to shift iron ore around massive mining pits.

Now the country's road transport companies are modernising fleets to ensure that when their industry goes autonomous, as early as the end of the decade, they are ready.

"I don't see this as disruptive necessarily, as much as a natural evolution," said Sarah Jones, head of road transport compliance at Toll Holdings, Australia's biggest trucking company.

Toll, owned by Japan Post Holdings Co Ltd, has already kitted out many of its 3,000 vehicles with semi-autonomous gadgetry like lane-change sensors and cruise control.

It will join other firms in April to watch a driverless truck trial in the Netherlands, which wants autonomous road trains sending cargo from Rotterdam, Europe's biggest port, throughout the continent by 2019.