Trucks of the future could someday cross the continent from Mexico to Canada along the north-south corridor of U.S. Interstate 83—without the hassles of passports, visas, or even a human hand on the wheel, according to a plan being pushed by the Central North American Trade Corridor Association, based in Bismarck, N.D.
The proposed "autonomous-vehicle corridor" would stretch from Mexico City in the south, and up through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. The route would continue into Canada via Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia before finally reaching Alaska.
The concept sounds impossible, but it actually relies on some of the same technologies that engineers are now applying in self-driving vehicles already on the roads, such as the fleet of Google cars navigating the streets of Mountain View, Calif., and the Daimler 18-wheel Freightliner truck that carried several passengers across the Hoover Dam in May.
Neither technology takes humans out of the loop entirely. Instead, they rely on sensors to monitor basic driving speeds and highway cruising conditions, only calling on drivers to handle difficult tasks like navigating local roads and pulling up to loading docks.
The concept of an autonomous-truck corridor, which was introduced at the 2014 Trade & Transportation Summit in Bismarck, appears to be gaining traction. Supporters are now performing feasibility studies and plan to hold meetings with communities along the six-state route.