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article imageDriverless trucks coming to Canada despite threat to jobs

By Karen Graham     Dec 27, 2017 in Business
2017 was a banner year for the electric truck industry and with the advancements being made in self-driving technologies, it is only a matter of time before "driverless" trucks will be cruising down Canada's highways.
And even though electric trucks aren't driverless at this time, the concept is already being tested in out-of-the-way places like Canada's oil sands and in big mining operations in Australia.
Last month, Tesla Inc. showcased a fully electric semi-trailer truck equipped with semi-autonomous technology including enhanced autopilot, automated braking, and lane departure warnings.
With the number of companies worldwide already manufacturing electric delivery and semi trucks, it is only a matter of time before we will see autonomous trucks pulling away from manufacturers doors, and headed down highways with no one in the cab.
Fuso Canter 3C13  8th Generation in Dueñas  Spain. (Image dated: March 6  2017).
Fuso Canter 3C13, 8th Generation in Dueñas, Spain. (Image dated: March 6, 2017).
In the U.S. it was reported in November that regulatory hurdles for electric vehicle companies had been cleared and consumer warnings about the risk of crashes and hacking had been brushed aside by the federal government to make it easier for the country to embrace driverless vehicles.
Toronto-based trucking firm, Fortigo Freight just recently joined Loblaws and Walmart Canada in pre-ordering Tesla semis. The $232,000 electric trucks are set to be delivered in 2019, and will eventually be driverless. Fortigo's president, Elias Demangos says that despite the company's investment, he isn't holding his breath when it comes to full acceptance of autonomous trucks.
Demangos says that while autonomous trucks will be well-suited for long hauls, for "short-hauls," drivers will still be needed for pick-ups and delivery of goods, according to CBC News Canada.
The Thor Trucks ET-One
The Thor Trucks ET-One
Thor Trucks
Driverless trucks are already in use
Suncor has been experimenting with automation since 2013 in its oil sands operations, although it wasn't until 2016 that the company began thorough evaluations of the autonomous heavy-duty trucks in a work environment. During the evaluation, Komatsu Ltd. heavy haulers were driven by sensors and computers, moving more than nine million tons of earth, running non-stop for 24 hours a day for a year.
And while Suncor says the autonomous vehicles will mean fewer accidents, fuel, and operational savings, and a smaller environmental impact, workers say this will kill jobs.
“This is probably threatening to become the single biggest hit to jobs in Canada and the most immediate. It will be devastating to the workers, their families, and their communities,” said Ken Smith, a Suncor mechanic and president of Unifor Local 707A, which represents 3,400 Suncor employees, according to Fort McMurray Today. “The threat is here and it’s now.”
In 2016  Komatsu Ltd. unveiled at MINExpo International an  Innovative Autonomous Haulage Vehicle  d...
In 2016, Komatsu Ltd. unveiled at MINExpo International an "Innovative Autonomous Haulage Vehicle" developed exclusively as an unmanned haul truck -- with no cab -- to maximize the advantages of unmanned operation.
Komatsu Ltd.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau traveled in October to Tesla's headquarters in Silicon Valley as part of a study on autonomous technologies that would aid in crafting government regulations. He has asked a standing Senate committee on transport and communications to study regulatory and technical issues related to the deployment of automated commercial vehicles. The committee is expected to deliver a report in January.
"There is significant policy, technical, and operational issues that will need to be addressed in the coming years before fully automated trucks are common on Canadian roads," said government spokeswoman Delphine Denis.
The Canadian association representing the nearly 200,000 Canadians in the trucking industry is very concerned with the thought of autonomous trucks making drivers obsolete. They have already urged the Senate committee to stop using the term "autonomous" or even "driverless" when referring to the technology, preferring "advanced driver systems."
Will driverless technology have a hard time being accepted? Probably. Even so, it is still years down the road and a lot could happen in that time span.
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