the industry is plagued by a trucker shortage
I’m no business school graduate, but it sure seems like if the trucking industry is plagued by a trucker shortage, trucking companies would be dying to switch to autonomous trucks as soon as they possibly could. Even more so for trucking companies that own their own trucks and have an aging fleet that needs to be replaced soon anyway. In turn, this means that companies researching autonomous trucks would have no end of cheap VC money to accelerate their efforts.
The other angle that people might miss is that they compare the efforts of consumer self-driving cars and map that to a big truck and assume it’s going to be a while. It’d be more appropriate to think about Waymo.
Waymo isn’t trying to sell their awkward-looking sensor-heavy vehicles to the general public. Because they don’t have to look pretty, they can have as many sensors as they need, uglifying the hell out of the thing, but making it really good at driving. Waymo is already doing small-scale full autonomous driving trials with no human backup driver. Instrumenting the truck and the trailer gives you a giant sensor array of all sorts, making those big heavy trucks the safest things on the highway.