Most of us are hearing a lot about Artificial Intelligence and the prospect of it replacing humans in many types of work.
Artificial Intelligence – that’s AI for short – is the technology that enables machines (such as robots and computers) to think and act like humans.
And ChatGPT is an AI website that uses information it has learned to generate text in response to questions.
I asked it to write my column for this month and started by asking about Deals on Wheels:
When it comes to trucking, safety is a top priority. Even when it comes to saving money, you don’t want to compromise safety. Here at Deals on Wheels, we understand this and strive to give our readers the best deals while still making sure they’re getting the highest quality of safety and reliability. For starters, we always look for the best deals on trucks, parts, and accessories. We make sure to only feature those that are from reputable manufacturers and are designed for the safe operation of a truck…At Deals on Wheels, safety is our top priority. We want to provide our readers with the best deals while still making sure they’re getting the highest quality of safety and reliability.
So far, so good.
I was on a roll.
It did get me thinking about the enormous impact technology is already having on our industry.
AI is already here in the heavy vehicle sector. ChatGPT told me so:
AI has been used in the trucking industry for many years, and its uses are becoming increasingly more sophisticated. AI can be used to automate navigation, loading, and unloading, as well as other tasks. It can also be used to optimize routes, reduce fuel costs, and minimize downtime. AI can also be used in truck maintenance and safety, as well as in predictive maintenance, which can save costs in the long run. AI can also be used to analyse data to improve customer service and provide customers with better insights into their operations. AI is also being used for driverless trucks, which could potentially reduce accidents, reduce traffic congestion, and improve efficiency.
Driverless trains are already here on the Sydney Metro. The New South Wales government has trialled an autonomous bus to run along a simple Point A to Point B route at Homebush Bay in Sydney.
Since 2021, Australian company Mineral Resources has been piloting an autonomous triple road train platoon in the Pilbara, with each combination capable of hauling 300 tonnes of iron ore.
The National Transport Commission has been developing a regulatory framework for some self-driving vehicles. The Automated Vehicle Safety Law is due in 2026 and is expected to lay out national standards for autonomous vehicles.
You might expect this will result in sweeping changes to how road transport operates.
Not so fast.
American researchers at two universities have been assessing the impact of autonomous trucking on operator hours. They say there will be a profound impact on long-haul trucking – but it may take decades to come about.
In March last year, an autonomous 18-wheel truck spent more than five successive days hauling goods between Dallas and Atlanta, running around the clock to cover multiple journeys totalling 10,000 kilometres.
The same freight task would have taken a human driver (with mandated rest breaks) about 10 days.
Critically, a human “safety driver” was in the cab at all times…and had to take the wheel many times.
It seems AI is up to the task when it’s straightforward but has a lot to learn when conditions are tough. Another study highlights its issues in built-up environments where the sun doesn’t shine so much.
Anyway, I was emboldened enough to ask ChatGPT how long before AI replaces my role:
It is difficult to predict exactly when a CEO of a lobby group will be replaced by AI, as it depends on a variety of factors, including the specific organization and its goals, the level of technological development in the field of AI, and the acceptance and adoption of AI within the industry. However, it is possible that in the future, AI could play a larger role in the operations of lobby groups, such as in the analysis of data and the development of strategies.
ChatGPT is unlikely to be able to attend meetings with Ministers any time soon, so I reckon my job is safe.
If you’re a competent heavy vehicle operator whose skills are very much in demand right now, I suggest yours is too.
AI clearly has a role to play in many facets of road transport – especially in route planning and management of bulk freight. Used properly, it’s going to make everybody’s job easier.
But humans with skills, finely honed by years of experience, aren’t going to vacate the scene any time soon.
And remember: governments at all levels are still trying to work out how to get us into electric trucks.