FedEx CEO reveals summertime push on autonomous trucks

By Steve Hallo, Property Casualty 360

Global shipping giant FedEx Corp. is going to be making a push into autonomous trucks starting this coming June, Frederick W. Smith, the company’s founder, CEO and chairman, said during a CNBC interview.

The company will initially explore using autonomous trucks to move freight over highways, according to Smith, who explained drivers would still be used in cities where they are better suited for pickups and deliveries.

Smith did note the company is still a “long way down the road,” but he is confident autonomous trucks will be here one day.

Not FedEx’s first foray into autonomous tech

While FedEx is building up to autonomous trucks, the company is already testing an autonomous drone program that handles “middle-mile” logistics operations, moving shipments between sortation locations,” according to a company press release.

Further tipping the company’s hand concerning its position on this bleeding-edge technology, Joe Stephens, senior vice president, global planning, engineering and technology, FedEx Express, said in the release: “FedEx was built on innovation and we are always looking toward new technologies to help enhance the logistics industry through improved safety, efficiency and customer service.”

Autonomous trucks & insurance

Swiss Re has indicated that due to the cost of autonomous vehicles (AV), it is most likely that their introduction into society will be through initiatives such as FedEx’s program and fleet services with for-hire AVs.

As it stands, more than 26 states have some form of legislation related to the use of autonomous trucks for commercial purposes, according to Swiss Re.

Since they are less complex than city driving, long-haul routes are more suitable for early AV projects.

During the early days, when human drivers will be growing accustomed to driverless vehicles, more accidents are likely to occur, according to Marsh McLennan. However, driverless technology is expected to eventually reduce the number of crashes as well as total liability costs.

As AVs become more common, Marsh McLennan anticipates auto liability will shift. With drivers assuming less responsibility for road safety, manufacturers, component suppliers and tech companies involved in the building of autonomous trucks (including the software that controls them) will carry more risk.

Marsh McLennan also noted insurance will need to change to offer more products related to liability coverage or hybrid coverage.

Additionally, insurance is going to play a critical role in either facilitating or deterring the commercialization of AVs, according to Koop Technologies, an insurtech that specializes in autonomous vehicles and automation risks.