Self-driving trucks in slow lane

Self-driving passenger vehicles have been tested throughout the United States and their use is anticipated. In the trucking industry, however, the brakes were pressed on implementing this technology because of concerns over safety and the risk of truck accidents.

In an internal Uber memo, the head of its advanced technologies group recommended the implementation of self-driving technology with passenger vehicles first before later bringing it to freight vehicles. The absence of any lability laws holding individuals responsible for injuries inflicted by a self-driving truck drove this reluctance. Uber, in fact, shut down its autonomous truck division.

Expert analysis of 250 million driving events, approximately 100 million in detail, reveal that driving conditions are among the largest obstacles. For example, there is no research dictating how a self-driving truck would perform in the restricted space of a stadium concert with some drunk pedestrians.

An experienced truck driver is prepared to react to pedestrians, bicyclists, and road layouts that are not designed for use by large vehicles. These less-than-desirable conditions can also be compounded by rain, sleet, fog, and other motorists. Self-driving vehicles must overcome these challenges before they can be used safely.

Also, self-driving technology applicable to passenger vehicle may not be transferable to a three-ton truck or cement mixer carrying drums of heavy and wet contents. Algorithms applied to a smaller vehicle such as a Toyota Prius provide only limited guidance.

Public perceptions of safety are also amongst the largest challenges. Manufacturers may not have the standing to assure other motorists about the safety of self-driving trucks.

An independent and unbiased party will have to review the safety of self-driving trucks by using objective standards in a transparent process. Vehicles will have to undergo testing in various situations by drivers with different skills before a true determination of their safety can be made.

Changing technology like this will impact the safety of motorists. Already, new technological features may increase the risk of accidents by an inattentive truck driver.

Victims of a truck accident may need legal advice and representation to assure that they can seek compensation for their injuries. An experienced lawyer will keep apprised of the latest technology and laws to assure that their clients are equipped to pursue these actions.

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