Autonomous Trucks: Coming Soon to a Road Near You?

June 21, 2017

With more major technology and transportation companies making strides toward road-ready autonomous trucks, we are watching a new industry develop before our eyes. State and federal regulators are doing their best to keep pace, but some companies have already expressed concern that their fleets will be ready to launch before lawmakers have done their part to put self-driving vehicles on America’s roads.

So, are autonomous trucks coming soon to a road near you? Here are the latest updates from the companies and authorities involved:

Latest Updates on the Launch of Autonomous Trucks

Late last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation released the first federal policy on autonomous trucks. Entitled, Accelerating the Next Revolution in Roadway Safety, the policy establishes vehicle performance standards for self-driving vehicles and provides a model policy for states to follow. State legislatures around the country have been proposing legislation to govern autonomous vehicles since 2012, with a record 33 states introducing legislation so far in 2017. Eighteen states, including Texas, have already passed laws relating specifically to autonomous vehicle technology, and governors in four states have issued executive orders focused on self-driving vehicle safety.

Topics addressed in the state laws passed to date include:

  • Commercial autonomous vehicles
  • Cybersecurity and data privacy
  • Insurance and liability
  • Licensing and regulation
  • Operation on public roads
  • Vehicle inspection and testing requirements

Technology and transportation companies like Tesla, Uber and Volvo are working in parallel to develop autonomous trucks that will be safer than those piloted by human drivers. Google is among the latest entrants in the soon-to-be industry, and is reportedly developing truck-focused self-driving technology under its Waymo subsidiary.

Despite these advances, many question whether we are really on the verge of driving alongside self-piloting tractor trailers and 18-wheelers. According to the online magazine FleetOwner, a public listening session held by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in April, “illustrated just how many questions remain to be answered before the technology can become a reality on the nation’s highways.” Echoing this sentiment, the MIT Technology Review forecasts that we will not be seeing driverless trucks for another five to ten years.

When Self-Driving Trucks (Eventually) Hit the Roads…

While the timing of the launch of fully self-driving remains an open question, it is now clearer than ever that the arrival of autonomous trucks is an inevitability. However, even with a comprehensive regulatory scheme in place, several legal questions will remain. Chief among them, how will victims be compensated when self-driving trucks are to blame for serious and fatal accidents? Accidents involving test vehicles and partially-autonomous cars are starting to shape the legal landscape already; and, at Morrow & Sheppard LLP, we are monitoring these developments so that we will be ready to fight for our clients when the future arrives.

Contact the Houston Truck Accident Lawyers at Morrow & Sheppard LLP

With offices in Houston, TX, Morrow & Sheppard LLP represents truck accident victims throughout Texas and nationwide. If you have been injured or lost a loved one and would like to speak with a lawyer, please call (800) 489-2216 or request a free consultation online today.

Get a Free Case Review by Calling Morrow & Sheppard Now.

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