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It may be years before we see fully automated trucks sharing the road with the motoring public, but it’s a different story for distribution centers or other closed industrial environments where routes and tasks are clearly defined.
Take Vera, the autonomous electric vehicle from Volvo. In June, logistics firm DFDS began using the driverless trucks to transport containers from a Swedish port to a nearby distribution center.
Vera is a cab-less yard tractor designed for routine tasks at low speed and short distances. With no human driver on board, and no intention of venturing onto the highway, Vera relies on what Volvo calls a “transport control center” to coordinate movements relative to other Veras operating on the same network.
“Our system can be seen as an extension of the advanced logistics solutions that many industries already apply today,” explains Mikael Karlsson, Vice President, Autonomous Solutions at Volvo Trucks. “It utilizes the same infrastructure, such as standard containers and trailers. This is important since the global logistics system is not going to change overnight.”
Vera can operate around the clock with minimal input or intervention from human beings, and the only time the vehicle should need to stop is to charge the batteries: each vehicle has a range of 186 miles.
A California bill that takes aim at “gig-economy” business models like Uber and Lyft would upend road transport business across the state, says the WSJ Logistics Report’s Jennifer Smith.
The legislation, called AB5, will impede many companies from claiming workers are independent contractors, including owner-operators. It codifies, clarifies, and grants exemptions to a 2018 California Supreme Court decision involving Dynamex Operations West, a parcel-delivery company that reclassified its employees as independent contractors. The court determined that workers must be treated as employees, not independent contractors, if their jobs are central to a company’s core business or if the bosses direct the way the work is done.
AB5 passed the Senate and Assembly last week, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has indicated he will sign it. The legislation would take effect in 2020.
Dozens of different professions have won exemptions from AB5, usually on the grounds that they set or negotiate their own rates, among other factors. They include doctors, psychologists, dentists, hairstylists, and accountants. Trucking officials say taking on independent drivers as employees would likely prove costly and make operations less nimble.