Are We Ready for Autonomous Trucks?
Self-driving vehicles are no longer science fiction. We’ve had self-parking cars for years, Tesla and other manufacturers are mass-producing cars with self-driving technology, and some industry analysts are predicting that there will be millions of autonomous cars on the road by 2020. That’s less than four years away.
But, while most of the world has been focused on self-driving cars, one company is focusing its sights on introducing the world to autonomous trucks.
Startup Plans to Retrofit Heavy Trucks with Self-Driving Technology
Based in Silicon Valley and run by a former Google engineer, a startup company called Ottomotto is in the process of developing hardware that can be installed in existing Class 8 trucks (which include the heaviest tractor trailers) to turn them into self-driving vehicles. Currently, Ottomotto is focused on highway driving only – Tech Times notes that even with the company’s kit installed, drivers will still be needed “for surface streets, unloading, loading and other tasks.” The company’s founder believes that its technology will be “better than humans” when it comes to staying safe on the interstate.
Ottomotto has not yet published a release date or pricing for its technology; however, its founder believes that its hardware will be ready for release “soon,” and that it will provide a near-term solution to the safety issues that have pervaded the heavy trucking industry for the past several years.
Can Autonomous Trucks Really Be Safer?
Of course, the big question about self-driving trucks remains the same: Is it really safer to have a computer behind the wheel than a human? This is yet to be proven, and mishaps with Google’s and Tesla’s self-driving vehicles suggest that the technology is currently far from perfect.
One suggested use for self-driving technology in heavy trucks is to allow the truck’s computer to take over while the driver gets some rest on long hauls. The Wall Street Journal even posed the question of whether autonomous technology will eventually lead the federal government to increase the number of hours truck drivers are allowed to spend behind the wheel. But, what happens if there is an emergency? What if a split-second decision needs to be made about running off of the road on an overpass or rear-ending a stalled vehicle? What if a driver simply doesn’t wake up when his or her input is required?
Who Will Be Responsible when a Self-Driving Truck Causes an Accident?
For the drivers who will eventually be sharing the road with self-driving trucks, these questions all point to an overarching issue: Who is going to be responsible when a self-driving truck causes an accident? Clearly someone is going to be liable, but whether that is the technology manufacturer, the trucking company, the truck driver, or some combination of parties remains to be seen. As in other types of trucking accident cases, the question of fault is likely to be highly fact-specific, and it is going to take an experienced, technologically-savvy attorney to fight for victims’ rights to just compensation.
Morrow & Sheppard LLP | Our Houston Truck Accident Lawyers Are Ready to Help
Morrow & Sheppard LLP is a Houston, TX personal injury and wrongful death law firm dedicated to helping victims of commercial truck accidents win the compensation they deserve. If you have been injured or lost a loved one, call (800) 489-2216 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today.