(NewsNation) — Autonomous technology could be the answer to the nation’s struggling trucking industry.
Don Burnette, the founder and CEO of Kodiak Robotics, said his company is currently testing 18-wheelers on the road, although someone still sits in the driver’s seat to monitor their system.
“We have a fleet of 34 trucks and our trucks are out driving 24/7 moving goods all across the southern United States, I-10, I-20, I-40, every state from Arizona all the way to Georgia,” he said.
Burnette added that they plan to begin driverless operations in 2024.
Although autonomous truck technology is already a reality, drivers are anxious that their days of driving may come to an abrupt end within a few short years.
Autonomous trucking has been tested for years in several states. However, many believe a full rollout won’t happen anytime soon due to significant pushback within the industry.
Unions and critics argue automation isn’t only dangerous, it endangers jobs and the economy. While proponents argue that machines are safer drivers.
Burnette argues drivers aren’t going to be out of work overnight.
“One thing people don’t realize is that this technology is going to take decades to roll out — it’s gonna be a slow and gradual rollout,” he said. “There’s already a massive shortage of long-haul drivers, and this technology is going to help backfill that demand and add resiliency to our supply chain.”
Burnette said there are currently no federal regulations restricting autonomous driving in the U.S., but there’s a patchwork of state regulations and it’s legal to have driverless operations in 23 states.
“We can actually go driverless today. We are working at the federal level to pass legislation that will actually provide blanket approval for this technology countrywide,” he explained. “But currently, it’s a state-by-state process, and we work with each state individually.”