In October 2016, a tractor-trailer loaded with 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer made the 120-mile journey down Interstate 25 from Fort Collins, Colorado, to Colorado Springs. This delivery would ordinarily not be newsworthy; however, in this case, the truck that made the delivery drove itself the entire way. Although there was a human driver inside the truck this time around, his role was to monitor the vehicle's progress and not to drive it.
The feat was launched by a startup called Otto, which is owned by Uber. Otto is working to equip trucks with software, sensors, lasers, and cameras so that they will eventually be able to navigate the highways on their own while a human driver naps in the back of the cab or handles other tasks - if a driver is needed at all. Self-driving trucks are in the experimental stage for now, but experts at MIT believe that they will be standard in about five to 10 years.
In this post, we'll take a look at some of the pros and cons of automated trucks as well as what could happen if an automated truck is involved in an accident.
Benefits of Driverless Trucks
Safety: Because the vast majority of trucking accidents are caused by human error, many theorize that eliminating human control will greatly reduce the number of accidents on the road. This is because driverless cars use a system of sensors to gather information about their environments that is much more comprehensive and precise than the senses available to human drivers. For example, many vehicles on the road today can detect the speed of the vehicle directly in front of them and apply the brakes in time to avoid a rear-end accident if the driver does not do so. In this way, it is likely that the improved sensing capabilities of driverless trucks will result in fewer accidents.
Increased Delivery Speeds: Today, trucks are operated by human drivers who are limited by the number of hours that they can safely operate a vehicle. If human drivers were eliminated from the equation, trucks could operate around the clock, which would overcome the current limitations placed on driver hours. This would also result in savings and increased revenues in the freight industry since it would dramatically cut down on transit times.
Better Traffic Flow: Driverless vehicles could reduce congestion by allowing them to go faster, operate closer together, and choose more effective routes. They could also reduce the total number of vehicles on the road by enabling efficient sharing of vehicles. Fewer vehicles on the road will cause fewer traffic jams, which will result in more efficient traffic flow and lower pollution.
Drawbacks of Driverless Trucks
Loss of Jobs: The most obvious and immediate drawback to driverless trucks is the loss of jobs for truck drivers. Truck driving is one of the most common occupations in the United States, accounting for roughly 6.8 million jobs, and is the top profession in 29 states. In an era when
most low-skilled jobs have been either automated away or shipped overseas, truck driving is one of the last viable careers available to blue-collar workers. If those jobs disappear, it will most likely lead to mass unemployment and all of the negative social consequences that go along with it.
Technological Malfunction: Because driverless vehicles are still in their infancy, we do not know the full consequences of what could go wrong yet. For example, how would a computer handle a situation that required the vehicle to either hit a group of pedestrians or slide down an embankment and damage the vehicle? The technology that runs driverless trucks could also cause entirely new types of accidents, including those caused by hacking, which could potentially be much worse than traditional accidents caused by human error.
Economic Disruption: The transition from traditional human-powered vehicles to driverless vehicles will represent a sea change in the way Americans live and participate in the global economy. Economic disruption itself is not inherently negative, but it always results in winners and losers. The losers from the economic disruption caused by driverless trucks most likely will be the truck drivers themselves, the legacy trucking companies that employ them, the vehicle manufacturers who build them, the insurance companies who insure them, and the legal professionals who represent them.
Legal Liability for Accidents Involving Driverless Trucks
One of the major issues involved in the driverless vehicle industry that has yet to work itself out is how to assign liability for accidents involving driverless vehicles. In traditional truck accidents, a human is responsible and thus legally liable most of the time. But if there is no human involved in a truck accident, how do we assign the liability? One popular theory would be to hold the owner of the truck responsible. Another theory is to hold the software company that developed the sensors used in the truck responsible.
One law professor predicts that, in order to show that an automated vehicle performed unreasonably, an injured plaintiff would need to show that a human driver would have done better or that another automated driving system would have done better. However, the law develops, most experts agree that the transition to driverless vehicles will result in a widespread shifting of liability from at-fault drivers to the automotive industry and the manufacturers and software developers who design them.
Contact a St. Petersburg, Florida, Truck Accident Attorney for a Free Consultation Today
While we wait to see what happens with the driverless vehicle industry, accidents involving traditionally driven trucks, cars, and motorcycles happen on a regular basis throughout South Florida. These accidents continue to cause serious injuries to motorists that require extensive medical attention. If you have been injured in a truck accident - even one involving a driverless truck - you may be able to obtain significant compensation for your injuries and losses. Please contact the attorneys at Dolman Law Group for a free consultation by calling 727-222-6922.
Dolman Law Group
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33712
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33712