In Australia self driving trucks are closer than you think

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The arrival of self-driving trucks could transform Australia's $201 billion transport and logistics industry within the decade.

Robotic trucks have been hauling iron ore and dirt on some outback mine sites since 2008 , but the technology has so far stayed away from public roads and general traffic.

Research has shown links between graduated driver licensing and the importance of parenting style.

However truck maker Daimler was this year licenced to test self-driving trucks on US highways, in a widely publicised world first that could make it safer and more efficient to transport goods by road .

While Daimler says self-driving trucks are up to a decade away from reality, the delay is mostly down to legislative roadblocks, not technology .

Meanwhile, unlike in the UK and parts of the US , Australia doesn't yet have laws that govern the use of self-driving vehicles, due to be tested here this year.

South Australia will host the nation's first trial of self-driving cars on public roads this November . Announcing the trial earlier this year, Premier Jay Weatherill highlighted predictions that the driverless car industry would be worth $90 billion worldwide by 2030 .

Market research by IHS Automotive says 12 million self-driving cars will be sold annually in 2035, and nearly all cars and commercial vehicles are likely to be autonomous to some degree after 2050 .

The robotic worker of the future

Robots already dominate parts of the logistics industry, including the Patrick container terminal in Sydney's Port Botany, where ships are loaded and unloaded by a fleet of 45 state-of-the-art "AutoStrads" .

Patrick's parent company Asciano cut its headcount from 450 to 211 as a result of the new technology - a move heavily criticised by the Maritime Union of Australia .

On the other hand, the trucking industry has been more optimistic about the opportunities posed by automation.

Truck driving has been labelled Australia's "deadliest profession", with drivers 15 times more likely to die than workers in any other industry .

Many organisations, including carmakers, police and the Australian Trucking Association, say self-driving trucks could improve safety .

Research has shown links between graduated driver licensing and the importance of parenting style.

The Australian Government expects demand for road freight to grow to almost 1.8 times its 2010 level by 2030 and the trucking industry says there aren't enough drivers .

Early versions of self-driving trucks will still require a driver on board, although that person could have more time for logistics and maintenance tasksiv, with software taking care of driving.

That could make truck driving a more attractive profession, Daimler suggests, as truckers may be able to advance to new positions as transport managers and further their careers .

Self-driving cars are likely to completely transform the taxi industry as well, with Audi , Tesla , Mercedes , Nissan , Google and a host of other companies expected to release autonomous models in coming years.

Uber plans to one day replace its fleet with autonomous cars . According to Columbia University researchers, a fleet of 9000 self-driving cars could replace all of New York City's 13,000 taxis and operate at about an eighth the cost .

i Ferrier Hodgson 2014, Transport and Logistics Insights, January 2014, viewed 16 August 2015,

ii Chambers, M. 2012, 'Rise of the machines',, 7 March, viewed 16 August 2015,

iii Daimler 2015, World premiere on U.S. highway: Daimler Trucks drives first autonomous truck on public roads, 5 May, viewed 15 August 2015,

iv Dowling, N. 2015, 'Daimler maps out autonomous trucks',, 6 July, viewed 15 August 2015,

v Davies, A. 2015, 'The UK just made itself a fantastic place to test self-driving cars',, 12 February, viewed 16 August 2015,

vi Accenture 2014, Realising the benefits of autonomous vehicles in Australia, November 2014, viewed 16 August 2015,

vii Carey, A, 2015, 'Driverless cars: Australia's first on-road trial launched',, 21 July, viewed 16 August 2015,

viii South Australia Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure 2015, SA set to host first on-road driverless car trials in southern hemisphere, 21 July, viewed 16 August 2015,

ix IHS Automotive 2015, Investments in autonomous driving are accelerating, says IHS Automotive, 5 January, viewed 16 August 2015,

x Saulwick, J. 2015, 'Sydney's Patrick terminal goes automated, with fewer staff but dancing robots',, 18 June, viewed 15 August 2015,

xi Wiggins, J.& Moullakis, J. 2015, 'Wharfies brought back to Port Botany after being usurped by machines', 28 July, viewed 16 August 2015,

xii Wiggins, J. & Moullakis, J. 2015, Patrick's wharfies protest forced job cuts at Port Botany,, 9 February, viewed 24 August 2015,

xiii Patty, A. 2015, Truck driving - 'Australia's ''deadliest'' job says Transport Workers Union', 2 July, viewed 16 August 2015,

xiv Rajca, J. 2015, 'Driverless cars on the way, senators told', 14 August, viewed 16 August 2015,

xv Australian Government Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development 2014, Freightline, I - Australian freight transport overview, May 2014, viewed 16 August 2015,

xvi Australian Trucking Association 2013, Submission to Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency: Skilled occupation list for 2014, 12 December, viewed 16 August 2015,

xvii Daimler 2014, World premiere: Daimler Trucks presents the truck of the future - the self-driving Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025, 3 July, viewed 16 August 2015,

xviii Torr, F. 2014, 'Next-gen Audi A8 drives better than you',,au, 22 October, viewed 16 August 2015,

xix Kaufmank, A. 2014, 'Elon Musk: We'll have driverless cars by 2023', 15 October, viewed 16 August 2015,

xx Mercedes-Benz, The Mercedes-Benz F 015 luxury in motion, viewed 16 August 2015,

xxi Nissan 2013, Nissan announces unprecedented autonomous drive benchmarks, 27 August, viewed 16 August 2015,

xxii Google, Google self-driving car project, viewed 16 August 2015,

xxiii Newton, C. 2014, 'Uber will eventually replace all its drivers with self-driving cars',, 28 May, viewed 16 August 2015,

xxiv Markoff, J. 2014, 'Google's next phase in driverless cars: no steering wheel or brake pedals',, 27 May, viewed 16 August 2015,