Roger Penske Banking on Self-Driving Moving Trucks by 2021

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Penske Truck Leasing could be completely autonomous in the not-so-distant future.

Ford intends to roll out autonomous vehicles as soon as they’re ready. While they’ve set 2020 as the first deadline, it’s no secret that they’d love to beat their own expectations as well as the competition’s.

The Blue Oval sees privately owned, self-driving vehicles as the future, and something which drivers will embrace with open arms, and they aren’t alone. Virtually every automotive and tech company out there is investing big bucks to make this “thing of the future” a reality.

Now we can add the legendary Roger Penske to such list. The wildly successful racing team owner also happens to own a major truck leasing company, and an equally massive network of car dealerships. Like everyone else, he sees autonomous vehicles as the future, but not necessarily in the same way Ford does.

Speaking to the Detroit Free Press ahead of the Detroit Grand Prix, Penske revealed his thoughts and plans surrounding autonomous vehicle technology.

“We’re already looking at those types of things today, trying to make a difference,” Penske said. “We have to be looking ahead because the world is changing in transportation, and with the size of our company, we need to be at the leading edge.”

Autonomous Trucks

Penske did express doubt in the belief that self-driving, privately owned vehicles will catch on anytime soon, however. He says that purely autonomous vehicles will “take a long time,” saying he doubts he will see that happen “in my lifetime.” But Penske’s thoughts, as well as his future plans surrounding autonomous trucks are entirely different.

The racing and automotive magnate is currently looking at “platooning” part of his 244,000 truck fleet, which leases trucks to companies like FedEx. The process involves running three trucks in a row, with the first and third driven by humans. The middle truck runs autonomously, but with a driver in the vehicle ready to take over if anything goes wrong. It would allow the fleet to keep moving even when the human driver needs a break, which would boost productivity.

The idea seems rather feasible, and would address most of the concerns people have surrounding the safety of autonomous trucks. The owner of such a massive transportation company should rightfully set a foot in the future, while having the other in the present. Now it’s time to see who’s vision of the future proves to be correct.

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Brett Foote is a longtime contributor to Internet Brands’ Auto sites, including Chevrolet Forum, Rennlist, and Ford Truck Enthusiasts, among other sites.

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