The number of automated trucks and buses is expected to grow from practically zero this year to 1.2 million by 2032, according to new market analysis by Guidehouse Insights.
The overall market share is projected to reach just over 19% by 2032. China will lead the way with a 38.5% share. North America and Europe are expected to reach 26% and 29% shares, respectively, according to the report authored by Sam Abuelsamid, a Guidehouse principal analyst.
The hockey-stick pattern of automated trucks — a surge in adoption after a period of relative stability — is due to several factors. Chief among them is the aging of the current long-haul driver pool and the scant interest in over-the-road driving jobs by young people. The American Trucking Associations predicts a shortage of as many as 200,000 drivers for long-haul jobs in the next decade.
Nearly 35% of tractor trucks are expected to be automated trucks in North America by 2032, not far behind the 40% in China, Abuelsamid wrote. Globally, automated tractors are projected to account for 21% of deployments with 368,000 units
Daimler Truck, which is developing autonomous versions of its Class 8 flagship Freightliner Cascadia with independent subsidiary Torc Robotics and with Google-backed Waymo Via, is convinced that driverless trucks are part of the industry’s future.
“We are fully committed to autonomous trucking as it can benefit everyone,” Martin Daum, Daimler Truck chairman of the board of management, said in a press release. “It will help society cope with the growing volume of freight, particularly in times of severe driver shortages.”
For long-haul, the operational model is expected to be hub to hub with depots located near highway interchanges. At the depots, trailers would be transferred to human-driven daycabs for the foreseeable future. Torc and Embark Trucks are two autonomous trucking developers planning for hub-to-hub operations.
A Torc Robotics automated Freightliner Cascadia truck climbs the Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Others, including TuSimple, envision fully autonomous trucks that could operate on surface roads to the depot without human drivers on board.
“The potential to reduce or eliminate the cost of drivers and overcome the shortage is widely appealing to shippers,” Abuelsamid said. “Long-haul trucking is also an [operational design domain] that has potential to work well with early deployments.”
Autonomous trucks also have a role in the last-mile delivery and distribution sector where loads would be sorted and shifted to smaller goods delivery vans for local operations.
“Specially designed automated vans, like the Udelv Transporter, have significant opportunities for last-mile deliveries, as do more traditional vans that may combine ADS with a delivery person on board who can either take packages to the door or load up drones while the van drives,” Abuelsamid said.
Daryl Adams, CEO of the Shyft Group, told he isn’t sure if 2032 is the right year. Predictions that battery-electric delivery vans would gain traction in the 2030s and 2040s is proving to be off by a decade. The North American Council for Freight Efficiency reported Tuesday that 100% of vans and step vans could be electric today.
“All these technologies are coming much faster, so we want to be sure we stay ahead of them,” Adams said, revealing that Shyft is working on an autonomous pilot that could be in operation by the end of the year. He declined to provide the name of Shyft’s partner or other details because of nondisclosure agreements.
Goods delivery vans are projected to reach global volumes of more than 235,000, or about one in five, by the end of the forecast period, with North America, Europe, China, and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries in Asia-Pacific topping 20% market shares, Guidehouse reported.