Self-driving truck technology vendor Locomation has secured what it claims is the world’s first autonomous truck purchase order from Wilson Logistics.

About 1,120 Wilson Logistics tractors will be equipped with Locomation’s Autonomous Relay Convoy (ARC) technology with the first units to be delivered in early 2022. The agreement also includes a commercial agreement that extends the relationship through 2028.

Wilson Logistics is an industry-leading transportation logistics company based in Missouri and said it sees autonomous vehicle technology as the future of transportation, especially in logistics.

ABI Research forecasts that autonomous commercial vehicle shipments for SAE Level 4 (high driving automation) in the U.S. and Canada is expected to reach 16% by 2026 with SAE Level 5 (full automation) to be sub 2% by 2029.

Self-driving trucks are seen as a necessity for first-mile logistics growth due to several reasons such as an aging population of truck drivers — there are about 50,000 driver positions open and it is expected to grow in the coming years — as well as cost-cutting measures as fleet operations are extremely expensive.

The Wilson and Locomation agreement follows a pilot program where Wilson included two Locomation trucks hauling trailers and freight deployed as an ARC on a 420 mile long route from Portland, Oregon to Nampa, Idaho. Locomation’s technology allows one driver to pilot a lead truck equipped with technology augmentation while a follower truck operates in tandem through a fully self-driving system.

“Working with the Wilson Logistics team, we defined road segments to maximize asset utilization by capitalizing on freight density in each lane which enables shippers and carriers to substantially increase their use of available capacity,” said Tom Kroswek, head of business development at Locomation. “We then used our proprietary analysis methods to identify opportunities to optimize pricing to maximize yield per mile.”

Locomation said at full commercialization, its ARC technology will produce an estimated 30% reduction in operating cost per mile, including 8% reduction in fuel consumption and a removal of more than 40 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air per convoy annually.

Locomation is one of numerous autonomous truck vendors looking to take advantage of this emerging market including TuSimple that is developing self-driving systems for 18-wheelers and recently launched a pilot program with UPS, Ike Robotics that recently received $52 million in funding for its self-driving truck systems, Kodiak Robotics that raised $40 million for its self-driving trucks, Hyundai Motor Company’s Xcient initiative in Korea, Daimler’s recent production of Level 2 autonomous trucks in North America and many more.

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