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Who Is Driving the New Generation of Semi-Trucks?

By Breyer Law Offices on February 8, 2021

Self-driving vehicles may sound like an idea for the distant future, but that science fiction has already started to become a reality. Just as there has been a push to get self-driving cars road-ready, there has also been a push to get self-driving commercial trucks on the roadways as well.

Considering how much more dangerous big rigs are than sedans, you may expect that it would be several more years before self-driving trucks really hit the market, but what you may not realize is that these driverless trucks are already in use.

When Trucks Became Self-Driving

The very first delivery made with a self-driving vehicle was performed in 2016 by Uber. It was a fairly short trip, but the drive was a success, with no damage done. Not long after Uber made this delivery, other companies began to step in and start constructing their own self-driving trucks. Uber has since dropped the project, but in the company’s place are Tesla, Embark, Waymo, and several others. The quest for the self-driving delivery truck is far from over. In fact, it is thoroughly on its way, and each company working toward it is trying to be faster than the next.

What may surprise you is the fact that there are some self-driving semis on the roads already. These driverless trucks are not yet popularly used, and still receive criticism from the media, but the test drives are getting further and further along. It may not be long before Tesla or Waymo announces that they are the first to use more self-driving trucks than truck drivers.

The Benefits of Losing Truck Drivers

At the moment, there is a truck driver shortage. The demand for transporting goods has increased while the number of drivers has mostly stayed the same. This means that most shipping companies are operating with fewer drivers than they actually need. This is an issue that has persisted for several years, and appears to be increasing, according to the American Trucking Association. A truck that does not need a driver would solve that issue completely.

The company that manages to perfect the self-driving truck, or at least construct something road-ready, would be able to reap the benefits of this driver shortage. That could mean millions, potentially billions, of dollars in revenue. The faster the automated commercial truck is completed, the more money the company that makes it will earn. That means there is a huge rush to get the truck out as soon as possible. In fact, some of these trucks are already on our roads. While that’s good news for the companies making and testing them, it spells danger for everyone else.

The Dangers of Driverless Trucks

There is no denying that truck drivers make mistakes. They are required to pull long hours and be on the road for days on end. This can leave them fatigued and easily distracted, which, in turn, can lead them to cause devastating accidents. We have seen the aftermath of these kinds of collisions, and we know just how catastrophic they can be. Perhaps, one day, it would make the roads safer to replace truck drivers with computer systems. However, that is only if these systems have been tested and vetted for years. There is no room for error when it comes to a machine that can weigh upward of 80,000 pounds.

Currently, in their push to get driverless trucks on the road, these companies have not gone through the vetting process that this kind of technology requires. Humans have the ability to take in their environment though sight and sound and make snap judgments based on that information. It can take milliseconds for a driver to realize there is an object in his path and hit the brakes to avoid hitting it. A computer, at least, at our current level of technology, is simply not capable of matching that.

Imagine you are crossing the street at a crosswalk with no light. You have the right of way as a pedestrian, but with no traffic lights to indicate that you are crossing, you rely on drivers seeing you and stopping of their own accord. A truck driver who is paying attention would see you, slow down, and stop before getting within a few feet of the crosswalk. A computer that relies on a sensor to “see” objects in the road may not be able to sense you until it is only a handful of feet away. A truck takes an incredibly long time to slow down. With such limited space, the driverless truck simply cannot stop in time, and would run into you, causing catastrophic injuries. It may even kill you.

The truth is that driverless trucks are simply not ready, yet they have already started to make their way onto our Arizona roads. You may have driven past a few without realizing it.

If you have been injured by a self-driving truck, then you deserve compensation, and the at-fault company deserves to be held responsible. To speak to a Phoenix truck accident attorney, call us, Breyer Law Offices, P.C., at (602) 267-1280. We look forward to hearing about your case.

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