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Are Autonomous Vehicles a Pipe Dream or Serious Reality?

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 01/28/2016 | 11:14 AM


Guest Post By Tommy Rector, faculty member, Transportation and Logistics Management at American Public University

Have you ever dreaded that long cross country drive and wished that the vehicle could drive you there? Well, this situation has become a possibility. In the 80s, we were glued to the television as the George Jetson whizzed around the sky in his flying vehicle as he makes phone calls as the car flies itself.

In 2012, Sergey Brin, the owner of Google, predicted that American drivers would have autonomous cars available to them by 2017. This date has since been moved to 2020. It is not because Brin has not been working on it; Google boasts over 1 million miles on a driverless car.

Google is not the only company to test the self-driving car. Tesla has been hot on the trail of putting a self-driving car on the streets. Newsweek just released an article stating that Tesla was the only firm to record absolutely no disengagement incidents. In the Tesla article, disengagement accidents are defined as the driver having to make manual adjustments or take cover from the autonomous system. This is quite interesting because the point to self-driving cars is to not bother the driver with driving.

When people think about self-driving vehicles, naturally, the topic of legality comes up. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports that six states and Washington D.C. (California, Nevada, North Dakota, Tennessee, Michigan, and Florida) have put legislation on the books related to autonomous vehicles. There are 12 other states with current bills introduced since 2014 on the topic (Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin) (NCSL).  

Once we see passenger cars driving themselves, it is only a matter of time before we start seeing semi-tractors with the same systems. The obvious question to those of us who care about the industry is, when the trucks become autonomous, will this put out truck drivers out of a job? The Huffington Post reports that this should not be a problem for truck drivers, however, it will be a great asset to the driver because the driver will be able to share the cab with the system. The same article notes that there are “tens of thousands” of open driving positions open at this time.

Will we really see self-driving or autonomous vehicles come to fruition? Well, maybe. In the meantime, I am trying to build up my bravery to push the button to let my Explorer parallel park itself. It will take a little getting used to for us all.

About the Author

Tommy Rector is an assistant professor for the Transportation and Logistics Management Program of American Public University. He has been in the military and civilian transportation and logistics industry for nearly 30 years. Professor Rector is in the dissertation phase of his doctorate in organizational management and is set to have his doctorate later this year.



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About Dr. Robert Lee Gordon

Dr. Robert Lee Gordon

Dr. Robert Lee Gordon is program director of the Reverse Logistics department at American Public University. Dr. Gordon has over twenty-five years of professional experience in supply chain management and human resources. He holds a Doctorate of Management and Organizational Leadership and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix, as well earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from UCLA. Dr. Gordon has spent more than 14 years teaching reverse logistics, transportation, project management, and human resources. He has published articles on reverse logistics; supply chain management; project management; human resources; education, and complexity. He has also published four books on Reverse Logistics Management; Complexity and Project Management; Virtual Project Management Organizations, and Successful Program Management..

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