For several years now, there has been a push to get self-driving trucks road ready. In Texas, like many states, it seems that there is no more waiting. This autonomous-vehicle-friendly state passed a law back in 2018 permitting driverless trucks on the road.
While this news may be exciting for some, are our highways ready for autonomous commercial vehicles? Will they reduce the number of truck accidents and help make our highways safer or will they introduce new crash risks that have not yet been considered?
Anderson & Cummings discusses what having self-driving trucks on our highways could mean with regard to safety and liability if a driverless truck crash happens.
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What Are the Immediate Benefits of Self-Driving Trucks?
A lot of people are unsure what to think about self-driving trucks. When empty, these commercial vehicles are large in size and weigh 35,000 pounds or more when empty. The idea of a huge piece of metal barreling down our highways with no human on board is unnerving for many drivers.
That said, there are some immediate benefits of having autonomous vehicles on Texas roads and throughout the U.S., including:
- Fewer breaks needed: If no human is on board these autonomous big rigs, there is no need to stop to give drivers a rest or to eat. It will only be necessary to stop for refueling purposes.
- Reduced traffic congestion: Having self-driving trucks travel during off-peak hours means there will be less traffic congestion for vehicles traveling during peak hours.
- More efficient transport of goods: Using self-driving trucks allows trucking companies to move more goods faster, but with fewer drivers.
- Fewer truck accidents: Having fewer human-driven trucks on the road also means fewer truck accidents due to driver error or negligence.
What Are the Downsides of Having Self-Driving Trucks on the Road?
There are pros and cons to every new idea, and there are definitely some downsides to having driverless trucks on the road. The biggest concern is that approximately 500,000 truck drivers could be out of work as a result. That is a significant number. Yet many analysts strongly contest this argument. They say that because autonomous trucks increase efficiency, it will actually increase the demand for professional drivers. However, the reality of this argument is not yet clear, so what jobs may or may not be available for today’s truck drivers remains to be seen.
The other major downside includes uncertainty about the technology of autonomous trucks. For instance:
- How vulnerable is the technology to cyber-attacks? If a self-driving truck’s computer gets hacked, could it become a weapon in the hands of a criminal?
- What if an important computer part breaks or crashes while a truck is en route? Could this easily cause a crash?
- If a self-driving truck causes a crash, who could be legally responsible for the damages?
Could Self-Driving Trucks Create Other Crash Risks?
There could be other crash risks that result from the use of self-driving trucks; however, the various possibilities of what could happen are not yet fully known. It is also important to remember that there are still many levels of driverless vehicles. Most today still have a human being ready to take over if something goes wrong. The simple fact that you have a 40-ton (more or less) vehicle on the road could mean a lot of damage if a crash occurs, both to humans in other vehicles and to properties. Additionally, what damage could happen if one of these autonomous trucks gets stolen? Are there protections to prevent unauthorized drivers from gaining access to these self-driving trucks? At the moment, there seems to be more questions than answers.
Who May Be Liable for a Crash With a Self-Driving Truck?
The same parties that are often liable for truck accidents could be liable for self-driving truck crashes. Although negligent truck drivers may become a thing of the past, other familiar at-fault parties could include:
- Trucking companies
- Truck owners
- Manufacturers (for faulty trucks, defective components and more)
- Those responsible for loading the truck
- And more
Truck driver negligence may often lead to crashes that cause victims to suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries because of the size and weight of the vehicle. Currently, truck accident victims may seek compensation from multiple parties, including the liability insurance of the truck driver and trucking company.
These parties will still have insurance policies to protect their interests. However, sorting out liability could become even more challenging, at least in the early stages.
Do Self-Driving Trucks Make Our Highways Safer?
The answer right now is maybe. Looking purely at the capability of the technology, it is very possible that the use of self-driving trucks could greatly reduce the number of truck accidents. This could also potentially lead to a significant reduction in traffic accident fatalities.
Today, many people may still favor the idea of having a human driver on board. In the end, only time will show whether driverless trucks make any significant changes to highway safety. There is also the possibility that we may be trading the known risks of driver negligence and human error for other crash risks.
Contact Our Law Firm for Help With Your Truck Accident Injuries
At Anderson & Cummings, we have extensive experience helping injured victims, including victims of semi-truck accidents. Whether your collision was the result of truck driver negligence or defective computer components in a self-driving truck, we are prepared to help.
Contact our law offices today to request a free case review. If you choose our firm to represent you, there are no upfront costs to pay. Since we take cases on contingency, you do not even pay our fees unless we win your case. Call today to learn more.
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