Normally AP goes with News as in the Associated Press News. But, this is news for trucking, so it belongs to Fleet Owner and its IdeaXchange. I was reading this week’s edition of ATA's Transport Topics and my continuing theme of putting autonomous vehicles to work in somewhat safe places came to the fore front again. I saw the articles on inland ports and the concept overhead roadway by Texas A&M University. The two together reminded me of some fishing trips with my dad and his best friend when I was in middle school. There were some places where we had to portage the aluminum boat, motors, oars, fishing gear, clothes and food to get from one stream or lake to another for the “better” fishing. That sounded a lot like moving freight from the seaport to the inland port, and maybe, doing it on an overhead road.
Such an idea could solve several problems, some of which we don’t even recognize yet. For instance, there are a number of problems with TWIC, Transportation Worker Identification Cards. Why would such cards be needed if the vehicles are autonomous?
Drivers often have to wait long hours in line due to inefficiencies at the ports. Autonomous vehicles can wait all they want and never use up any valuable hours of service. They don’t need heat or air conditioning or lighting or entertainment while waiting. They can just sit there and not consume any fuel, be it diesel which the ports don’t like, hydrogen fuel cell, lithium something battery, or natural gas.
Volvo and Siemens are currently working to demonstrate a catenary system that the truck attaches to. This is to eliminate emissions. But, a natural gas or electric vehicle that could pull a container would be emissions free and would not require the infrastructure. Of course, if the idea of a raised road is put in, that would be costly infrastructure.
The seaport to inland port is a safe route, often with limited access already. It’s often not a path that a vehicle would take. And, here’s a hair-brained idea: One of the more interesting vehicles is the rail service vehicle that has tires for running on the road and train wheels for running on the rails with a mechanism to lift the train wheels when not in use. Perhaps the existing rail could be used for the safe operation of the autonomous vehicle.
Whether on the road or the rails, this form of transport could be more modular with single, double, and triple (or longer combination vehicles) being sent out without having to wait for tens or hundeds of rail cars before it makes sense to fire up that diesel electric hybrid train engine.
So, we have Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs), Multi-Purpose Vehicles (MPVs) and All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs). Why not Automated Portage Vehicles, APVs?