Self-driving vehicles have been in the works for several years. While some vehicles now offer autopilot functionality, the feature has yet to be rolled out across all car manufacturers. As self-driving large trucks and 18-wheelers begin to roll out in Texas and New Mexico, how these new autonomous vehicles will affect drivers across the Lone Star State has yet to be determined.
Former Google self-driving car project Waymo has become a stand-alone brand that focuses on producing fully autonomous, self-driving vehicles. The company is behind the launch of a fleet of autonomous semi trucks in Texas and New Mexico. The trucks will rely on maps charted by Waymo as they travel along Texas’ major roads and highway systems.
While a future including self-driving trucks may mean lower costs, less traffic, and potentially fewer accidents, safety remains a major concern. The state has nearly 65,000 trucking companies in operation and no current regulations covering self-driving vehicles, making Texas a great fit for testing these new autonomous trucks despite their overall safety being up for debate. This leaves many Texas drivers with concerns about the safety measures, or lack thereof, put into place when it comes to these large self-driving vehicles operating on the state’s roads. What regulations are currently in place? Who is liable if one of these driverless trucks is involved in an accident?
Self-Driving Vehicle Safety Concerns
Concerns over self-driving vehicle safety are nothing new. In 2016, a self-driving Tesla Model S hit a trailer while on autopilot, killing its driver, as the cameras in the vehicle were unable to distinguish the trailer from the sky behind it. In 2018, a pedestrian was hit and killed by a self-driving Uber operating autonomously with a driver in the car. The incident occurred because the vehicle did not have the capability to classify an object as a pedestrian unless it was near a crosswalk.
On average, more than 4,000 people in the United States die in trucking accidents every year, most often due to human error. Considering autonomous commercial trucks will primarily operate on busy freeways, it isn’t as clear just how safe they will be.
Though technological advancements have increased the abilities of autonomous vehicles, poor weather conditions and human-to-human interactions have yet to be perfected by sensors and cameras. For instance, as demonstrated by Tesla’s 2016 fatal accident, bright sunlight can briefly blind cameras. Snow, ice, and sand also have the potential to throw off laser sensors within the vehicles; and, the vehicles are unable to interpret the facial expressions and gestures of other drivers to predict their driving behavior.
Some of the major concerns and possible dangers that come with driverless trucks on Texas roads include:
- New, underdeveloped technology possibly failing
- Software or hardware defects
- Lack of road regulations
- No applicable basis for determining fault or liability
- Large, heavy machines operating on roads without the ethics and experience of human drivers
While self-driving cars have limitations, self-driving trucks operating at highway speeds – with limited maneuverability and the potential for extreme, powerful, and fatal levels of impact – could be extremely dangerous. Truck drivers often spend months in driving school and have to spend thousands of miles driving with a supervisor before taking full charge of a big rig. Because of this, matching the functionality of an autonomous truck to a human truck driver’s skill can be difficult.
Self-Driving Trucks Need Laws and Regulations
Unfortunately, there is no clear path to determining liability when a self-driving truck collides with another vehicle. Many question whether or not the trucking company, the software developers, the other driver, or even the company that hires the trucking company will be held responsible. This is especially concerning due to the size and nature of the vehicles and the massive damages of which they are capable.
While the trucks continue to test routes, safety, and technology during operation, many are put in harm’s way on Texas roads. If you or a loved one becomes a victim of a trucking accident, regardless of whether or not a driver is behind the wheel of the truck, we can help. Contact the experienced truck accident attorneys at Liggett Law Group today for a free and confidential consultation wherein a trial lawyer will evaluate the facts of your particular situation and give you the best advice possible at no cost or obligation to you.
Lubbock Truck Accident Attorneys
No matter if a self-driving or human operated truck causes an accident, the effects can be devastating. Trucks weigh much more than passenger vehicles; and, when driving at high-speeds, they have the potential to cause serious injury and kill others on the roads.
At Liggett Law Group, we have extensive experience successfully handling trucking accident cases in Texas and in New Mexico. Our legal team will work to hold the trucking company and other parties responsible for damages caused by their negligence. If you or someone you know was injured in a trucking accident, contact the attorneys at Liggett Law Group today for a free consultation.