Self-driving van - the end of the driver?

Andrew Newbound

By: Andrew Newbound

Self-driving vans are heading for the UK’s roads

If the chief executive of the world’s fourth-largest freight-forwarding companies is to be believed, your van might not need a driver within the next decade.

According to Jens Bjoern Andersen, CEO of Denmark-based DSV A/S Logistics, the technology is already in place to enable self-driving trucks to roll across Britain’s roads within five to ten years. And if trucks start driving themselves, vans will surely follow. Anderson believes we’ll first see these self-driving vehicles trundling down specially-reserved lanes on Motorways, before eventually stretching into towns and cities as the technology evolves.

“All we need is the regulatory steps and perhaps a fine-tuning of the technology,” he told news agency, Bloomberg. “Sometimes, when I drive my electric Telsa home from work, I go most of the way almost without touching the brake or accelerator, and I only need to hold my hands on the steering wheel because the law says I must. The technology is already there.”

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Despite this, Anderson has some good news for those of us who believe the human-touch will remain essential. “Fully self-driving trucks that also handle the distribution stage in big cities like Paris, London or Copenhagen, are many years away. On the last stage of the distribution, you need to bring goods in and out of the truck all the time, you have the city traffic, the cyclists and all that, so you really need a human there.”

It’s possible that by the middle of the next decade, truck and van drivers could be simply passengers on the main stretch of any delivery; only taking the wheel on the very last leg of the journey. For the remaining ‘down’ time, drivers would need to find other things to do.

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This could mean resting between stops, or enjoying an increased amount of leisure time. More likely though, drivers could be retrained by their employers to perform basic administrative tasks, deliver web-based functions, or perhaps even customer service.

This multi-skilled approach would certainly add variety to the average van driver’s role, and for some this might be a welcome change. However, for those drivers who do the job because of their simple love of driving, self-driving vans might not be such a welcome addition to Britain’s roads.