Keiichi Kitazawa believes tech can mitigate driver shortfall.
Keiichi Kitazawa believes tech can mitigate driver shortfall.

Driver shortage accelerates drive to autonomy

EARLIER this month in Japan Keiichi Kitazawa, Hino's boss of the company's Advanced Technology Unit, spoke to Big Rigs about the future vision of Hino trucks on the back of major shifts in Japanese market conditions.

His remarks underscored Hino's commitment to zero traffic accident casualties. Paramount in achieving that goal is moving more tasks from drivers to automated systems - ultimately to eliminating drivers entirely.

The push towards technology is tied to the driver shortage that seems endemic to most first world economies. Driving continues to carry a degree of social stigma, and in Japan the ratio of driving jobs to applicants has grown from 1:1 in 2005 to 2.76:1 in the first quarter of 2018.

Additionally the driver age distribution has shifted dramatically, from 34.6 per cent of drivers being over 40 years old in 1993, to 72.1 per cent in 2016, an unsustainable trend. No wonder Hino is planning on accelerating the development and implementation of high technology automated systems for its truck range.

Right now additional electronic features are under development and some will be revealed in new models due before the end of the year. Clearly the technology is way ahead of the regulatory framework.

While safety and elimination of accidents is a primary goal for autonomous trucks, Hino's projection of a truck and driver leading a platoon of two other driverless trucks that follow its wheeltracks will be a major contributor to solving the looming driver crisis.

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