Most of the hype for automated driving deals with driving down the road with the eyes diverted from the road, hands off the steering wheel, and the driver relinquishing control. This is the opposite of Eyes on the Road, Hands on the Wheel, Driver Control of Information Flow that I spoke about in about 1999 when introducing the Truck Productivity Computer. Since the advent of autonomous vehicles, I’ve been a proponent of doing it on private property at low speeds. In these instances, there is no need to change regulations. It’s part of the crawl before you walk, walk before you run approach to anything new.
Finding a payback for the extra equipment needed for an autonomous vehicles is an open question. As long as a driver needs to be in the vehicle, it’s hard to find enough other work for the driver to do to offset the costs. Just this morning, Transport Topics had an article with safety advocates bemoaning the low take rate for advanced driver assistance systems.
Automated parking has now been addressed by at least three companies. ZF demonstrated some aspects as early as the 2014 IAA show in Hannover, Germany. Eaton announced Autonomous Auto-docking in 2016. Last week, Daimler and Bosch announced a trial for automated vehicle parking.
With the Electronic Logging Device rule set to take effect this year, many fear that it will decrease productivity and eliminate drivers by choice for those drivers that refuse to ever be monitored or measured, or out of necessity for any driver running two log books illegally. Automating truck parking could get drivers another 30-90 minutes of driving time per day. Let’s say that gets a fleet another 50 miles per day from a driver. According to a DAT study from 2012/2013, revenue per truck was approximately $15,000 per month. 7 days, 70 hours per week driving for a driver for about 28 driving days per month gives about $15,000 per month divided by 280 driving hours/month equals about $53 revenue per driving hour. 1 extra hour per day of driving legally, gives a revenue increase of over $1,400 per month.
Now, I’ll admit the numbers above need a bit of verification. However, if I can approach a truck stop fuel island and leave my vehicle to be fueled and parked by someone or something else, then I can gain some driving time, assuming I’m not maxing out my hours of service driving due to traffic and other conditions. The math only begins to work if I run out of on-duty hours before I run out of driving hours.
So, let’s do the math together and determine if there is a potential Return On Investment for automated parking.