The future is here. You’ve probably heard a lot about self-driving cars, so you won’t be too surprised to learn that self-driving trucks have become a reality. Arguing that they are a cheaper and safer alternative to trucks driven by humans, some trucking companies are pushing to put self-driving truck technology into use. But the technology is untested, and many argue that self-driving trucks could be a danger to other vehicles on the road.
What Types of Technology? What Types of Benefits?
Competing companies are pursuing different types of technological advances that put self-driving trucks on the road. The technology includes things like:
- A convoy of self-driving trucks that travelled across Europe last year used a new automated driving technology called platooning that connects trucks. The speed and direction of the lead truck determines the speed and direction of the others, using Wi-Fi, sensors, GPS and cameras.
- A Google start-up called Otto is seeking to retrofit existing trucks with self-driving technology.
- Automated braking was introduced to help trucks stop more quickly and safely, but it didn’t work as planned and actually created more problems than it solved.
The alleged benefits of these technological improvements are obvious. Trucking companies invest in high-cost technology, but they ultimately save money when they no longer need to pay truckers’ salaries. Trucking companies also seek to make their trucks safer and less likely to be involved in accidents, although this case be challenging.
What Could Go Wrong?
National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) statistics show that more than 90 percent of truck accidents were caused, at least in part, by driver error. Still, taking truckers out from behind the wheel doesn’t solve the problem. Self-driving truck systems aren’t necessarily error free just because they don’t have humans involved. Further, there are no humans in the truck cab if something happens to go wrong—and nobody to stop a runaway truck if a computer fails to control it.
When it comes to proof regarding the safety of self-driving trucks, only time will tell. It is likely that there may be many imperfect technologies and many failures until self-driving trucks are perfected. In the meantime, our lawyers are on your side.