14 May 2020, 14:17
Edgar Meza

Driverless trucks could shift transport from rails to road – report

Clean Energy Wire

The introduction of automated heavy trucks could further shift transport from rail to road, according to a report by Germany’s Aerospace Center (DLR) on the opportunities and risks of automated lorries. Driverless transport on motorways will be much cheaper than rail transport, with up to two-thirds of freight traffic possibly moving from rail to road, the researchers found. "In addition to strictly market-based arguments, the aspects of environmental protection and the burden of traffic jams on our roads must therefore play an important role in the social debate," said DLR researcher Stephan Müller. In order to strengthen freight transport by rail, Müller suggests promoting an innovation strategy for the sector.

DLR transport researchers are already working on innovative cargo concepts for the rail freight transport of the future as part of the agency’s Next Generation Train (NGT) project. But many companies surveyed by DLR said not only cost savings, but also the current lack of truckers makes driverless vehicles particularly attractive. Automated truck transport could mean cost savings of 30 to 40 percent, resulting in higher profit margins, according to DLR.

Trucks and other freight vehicles are the backbone of Germany’s export-driven economy. But the rapid growth in traffic volumes increases the pressure of reaching emissions reductions in the sector, which already lags behind on fulfilling its climate targets.

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