Transportation instructors preparing students for automated future

Photo by Michelle Rowe-Jardine.
Some new trucks are being outfitted with driver assistance technologies to help with emergency braking and collision avoidance. (Photo by Michelle Rowe-Jardine)

By Michelle Rowe-Jardine

 

There’s been a new development in the global race towards fully autonomous vehicles.

DHL announced on Wednesday, Oct. 11 that it will begin testing its self-driving delivery trucks late next year.

This announcement comes just before Tesla’s projected unveiling of its electric, self-driving trucks in late October.

With automotive innovations steering the future towards full automation, instructors at Humber are trying to prepare their students the best they can.

Rob Jackson, an instructor at Humber’s Transportation Training Centre, said fully autonomous trucks won’t happen in his lifetime.

But that’s not to say technological innovations haven’t affected the transport industry.

“My first tractor was a gas engine. Now we’re into technology… everything’s different. So, we have to learn to keep up with it,” Jackson said.

Humber’s Transportation Training Centre already had to adapt to the introduction of Electronic Logging Devices. Digital logs are slowly replacing paper logs as a way for transport operators to track their working hours.

Beginning Dec. 17 of this year, electronic logs will be mandatory for U.S. trucks, and Jackson said Canada is probably two to three years behind.

James Pattison, the manager of Humber’s Transportation Training Centre, said the new Electronic Logging Devices have already been installed in the Humber trucks and just have to be activated.

Pattison said students will be given eight hours of training on how to use the new logs.

“The training requirement is more than ever before because the training requires the individual to understand the practical side of it and the technology behind it,” he said.

Tuition fees also increase for students as more technology is introduced to the program.

“If it costs us more for the machine and the technology then we’ve got to increase our costs,” Pattison said.

A 2016 report from the American Transportation and Research Institute said it expects autonomous vehicle technologies to reduce instances of reckless driving, speeding and accidents.

Jackson said some of the newer technologies innovations are more of a hindrance than they are helpful. He used laser sensory technologies as an example.

“The truck does nothing but beep at you going down the road… because you moved two inches too close to the white line,” he said.

It will still be some time before students can be trained to take their hands off the wheel in a driverless Tesla truck.

Infrastructure problems and legal liabilities during driverless vehicle crashes are some of the barriers that will keep Humber students in the driver’s seat until those issues are addressed.

Pattison said that’s why he makes sure students are taught the fundamentals of truck driving before the bells and whistles of automation are introduced.

“When the laser quits working on the truck going down the road, you’re not going to know how to handle it if you haven’t been taught how.”

 

 

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