It's easy to underestimate the importance of trucking to the American economy. According to the Bureau of transportation statistics, trucks moved approximately $721 billion worth of goods in the United States, or roughly 65% of all goods moved by rail, sea and air. Unfortunately, trucking remains a relatively precarious industry, with trucking-related crashes and fatalities having increased 11% respectively, between 2017 and 2018; recent data suggest similar trends. Autonomous vehicles are being developed as a means of helping to move cargo while also limiting the amount of damage due to trucking-related collisions.
How are autonomous trucks being used?
Since 2015, with the first unmanned transit of the Hoover Dam by an autonomous truck, much progress and investment has been made to bring autonomous trucks to market safely and expediently. Kodiak and Waymo are among the developers implementing autonomous vehicle technology, using robots and lidar to provide vehicle distance and speed regulation functions, to improve autonomous vehicle functions in order to reach complete, level 5 vehicle autonomy. TuSimple is among the entities heavily invested in autonomous truck logistics, already conducting pilot testing with 40 autonomous trucks, being driven with a human as a backup copilot, on test runs from Phoenix to Dallas. While autonomous trucking is still in development as a large-scale transportation option, many are hopeful that by 2024 autonomous trucks will play a large role in delivering goods. Advocates anticipate decreased traffic, more efficient driving with lower emissions, improved job opportunities for drivers who transport to these trucks and decreased accidents as among the benefits the switch to autonomous trucking will bring.
Liability concerns with autonomous trucks
Many across the United States, including 18 wheeler accident law firms, are already anticipating the changes that autonomous trucks can bring. Aside from the various economic benefits to trucking companies coupled with the likely disruption the transition away from truck drivers will impose on states with large populations of truck drivers, many lawyers are also anticipating the legal scenarios imposed in the event of accidents involving autonomous trucks. Given the novelty of autonomous trucks from a legal standpoint, there is little legal precedent to guide lawyers and even legislators with regard to tort laws involving autonomous trucks. Recent accidents involving semi-autonomous vehicles have led to immediate suspension of these vehicles as driving services, which may signal that further developments and delays will be encountered before autonomous trucks take to the road. However, in the meantime, in case of an accident, the best thing a driver can do is seek advice from an 18 wheeler accident law firm as experienced legal experts will be able to advise them accordingly.
The future awaits autonomous trucks
The many economic, environmental and public health benefits autonomous trucks impose continue to promote their development and further advocacy. 18 wheeler accident law firms will be among the trucking-associated industries that will have to adjust to the new age of transportation, a change that will hopefully be a benefit to all.