Automated Trucks – The next big disrupter in the automotive industry?

Automated Trucks – The next big disrupter in the automotive industry?

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Head of Marketing & Communications Germany, Austria and Switzerland
Munich Office, Central Europe
+49 89 9230-8190

  1. Automated trucks are addressing several challenges that the trucking industry is facing simultaneously: hours-of-service, safety, driver shortage and operating costs
  2. In early stages, fast payback of technology investment can only be reached in few applications with high share of truck platooning – significant cost savings are only expected long term with driverless trucks, where driver costs can be reduced by 90%
  3. Pull from fleet operators will be limited given the slow payback as safety regulation will become a major driver in the adoption of automated trucks

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Automated Trucks


The next big disruptor in the automotive industry?

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Munich, May 17, 2016

The trucking industry is facing several challenges that can potentially be addressed by automated trucks: hours-of-service, safety, driver shortage, and operating costs. While the industry made gradual improvements on some of the individual issues disconnected in the past, automated trucks have the potential to simultaneously impact a wide range of issues.

The new Roland Berger study "Automated Trucks – The next big disrupter in the automotive industry?" analyzes the key benefits and challenges of automated trucking. Fully driverless trucks are slowly becoming a reality and will represent the final stage in an incremental, 15+ year developmental process with a gradual reduction of driver engagement. While driver assistance systems such as ACC or Lane Keep Assist are already implemented in many trucks, automated vehicle operation will be possible in the final stage (stage five or full automation) under all driving conditions and potentially no longer needing a driver.

"Each stage of higher automation brings with it higher system complexity and increasing costs, ranging from 1,800 USD per truck to implement stage one to 23,400 USD per truck all the way to the final stage five", says Stephan Keese, Senior Partner and responsible for Roland Berger's Americas Commercial Vehicle practice. "A key driver behind the high cost is software, which accounts for approx. 85% of total cost".

However, increasing the technology content also allows for a reduction of the operating cost. Fuel and driver cost savings are the main factors in payback of the initial investments. The industry does not need to wait until final stages of automation to see savings; fuel cost savings of around 6% can already be found in stage one (driver assisted truck platoon DATP). The main cost reduction will come into effect in stage four, where the driver can take required rest breaks during automated driving. This saves driver costs of 6%. In stage five, where long-haul trucks won't require a driver anymore, driver costs will even be reduced by 90%. Additional cost savings can materialize in insurance costs as automated driving enhances safety and brings down the number of trucks involved in crashes by 90% until 2040.

"The payback time for fleet operators strongly depends on the use case", explains Walter Rentzsch, Senior Project Manager at Roland Berger who co-authored the study. "Trucks that operate on long-haul routes or regional trucks driving on trucking corridors can form platoons with ease and will see faster payback", he concludes. Other use cases will have payback times that are longer than fleet operators typically expect. The picture changes again in stages four and five, when driver cost savings kick-in and faster paybacks are possible.

Though initial steps mostly have been taken in autonomous trucking, pull from fleet operators is expected to remain limited given the expectation of slow payback for the foreseeable future. Manufacturers remain equally cautious in pushing new technologies to the market because liability regulation is not defined in many places.

As autonomous driving moves forward, four key implications for the trucking industry have been identified:

  • While pull from fleet operators and push from OEMs will remain limited, tighter safety requirements push ADAS into the market and drive adoption of automated trucks.
  • Roles and responsibilities will change within the value chain with different stages of automation: While OEMs continue to source individual functions from suppliers in early stages, a single entity will be required once the complexity increases. This could be the OEM or an engineering service provider. With stages four and five being only software driven, the need emerges to scale effects allowing pure software players to gain a large share of the revenue and profit pool.
  • New business models will emerge around automated trucks and could potentially speed adoption: Platoon Service Providers for example can help orchestrate platoon formation.
  • Automated trucks will certainly impact operator models in the future and owner/operators will feel increasing pressure: large fleet operators will gain competitive advantage over owner drivers as they can more easily form intra fleet platoons and are more likely to platoon with peers.

The applications open significant benefits and opportunities for the entire truck chain. But the implementation will not come easily. Keese concludes, "the technology will be available well before the trucking industry will embrace it. A legal framework needs to provide stability for an industry that will be significantly reshaped in the way we operate trucks today".

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