A Coopersburg, PA, equipment company has unveiled a self-driving truck to be used by highway construction crews in Florida by the end of the year.
The driverless vehicles will serve as construction-site “crash trucks” — the barrier-surrounded vehicles that lead the roving construction crews that paint highway lines, inspect bridges and pave roads. Drivers of crash trucks are in harm’s way, even as their vehicles serve as a decoy to divert traffic from hitting exposed road workers. A vehicle with no driver eliminates the risk of harm in case a moving car rear-ends the truck.
Royal Truck & Equipment Co. and the Florida Department of Transportation are still working out the details of the pilot program involving two driverless crash trucks, the Associated Press reported this week.
"Connected and autonomous vehicles in general are viewed as the future of surface transportation, and this technology may be one of the first ways in which it gets commercialized," Gerald Ullman, an author of a Texas A&M Transportation Institute study on driverless vehicles, told the AP.
Each truck is equipped with a device that will receive signals to direct its movement. The technology, Ullman said, has been around for 30 years and has been proven to reduce risk.
Automated crash trucks, which are drawing interest from Transportation Departments around the country, also can potentially save money on labor, as fewer drivers will be needed per crew.
Self-driving vehicles are also on the drawing board at Google and Daimler Trucks North America, the AP reported.