Double-Take: No Driver in the Truck Next to You?

  • September 1, 2017
  • Tractor-Trailer Accidents

Self-driving cars may rattle some of us. But can you imagine a self-driving tractor-trailer? How do you feel about being on the road with them?

It’s something to get used to now, because self-driving semis are here. In fact, “platoons” of self-driving trucks traveled across country borders in Europe during April, 2016. (When trucks “platoon,” a small grouping of trucks drive in convoy autonomously while connected wirelessly; the truck in the lead determines the route and speed.) The self-driving trucks left factories for Rotterdam, The Netherlands, from locations as far-flung as Sweden and southern Germany. It was the first cross-border experiment using self-driving trucks.

While the trucks did have human beings riding along because the vehicles were not completely autonomous, the day of self-driving semis is coming.

Major Players in Autonomous Large Trucks

Would it surprise you to find out that Silicon Valley has an enormous vested interest in reducing their shipping costs? Think about how often you purchase something online. A number of us shop online regularly. Wouldn’t self-driving trucks potentially cut the costs of doing business?

Not only that, certain tech companies can make money off the technologies needed to create self-driving trucks and, eventually, completely autonomous trucks. Their names? Waymo (a division of Google); Otto (part of Uber, the ride-providing company); Peloton (backed by UPS and Volvo); Daimler (parent company of Mercedes); and a dark horse, Starsky Robotics, among others.

Truck driving is the most common job in 29 of our 50 states. But it also has a high turnover rate, or rate of driver replacement annually—81 percent, or 4 out of 5 drivers—because of the long hours and relatively low pay combined with stressful conditions. Self-driving trucks could be on our highways within a mere 3 to 4 years, according to experts who spoke in July, 2017, at the Automated Vehicles Symposium in San Francisco. The executive chairman of the fourth largest trucking company in our country, Max Fuller of U.S. Xpress, Inc., believes that Level 4 autonomous trucks will be in use within 4 years. A Level 4 autonomous vehicle is defined as one that is self-driving, except in certain unusual situations where a human may need to take over the controls, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

What Are the Tech and Automotive Companies Doing?

The following companies are working hard to bring autonomous trucking to fruition. We have brief summaries of what a number of the major players in self-driving trucks are working on:

  • The mission of Otto (Uber) is to create trucks that can drive 24/7 because this situation would allow drivers to take naps. However, Otto and Waymo are in the middle of a complicated lawsuit involving patents and trade secrets, which could delay things for both parties.
  • Waymo (Google) wants self-driving trucks in order to reduce the number of road deaths related to trucks.
  • California-based Starsky Robotics is creating a kit that can be retrofitted onto trucks to provide them with autonomous capabilities.
  • Peloton (UPS and Volvo) is focusing on truck platooning as a way to save fuel. Volvo is also developing its own self-driving trucks that are meant for specific industries, such as mining.
  • Daimler (Mercedes) is working on semi-autonomous trucks in order to reduce driver stress and to make trucks safer.

While it will still be a number of years before you spot empty driver’s seats in trucks as you roll down the highway, autonomous trucks are clearly on their way. High job turnover, low wages, and a growing driver shortage will continue to “drive” the possibilities of autonomous trucks.

Truck Accident? Turn to Steve Heisler, The Injury Lawyer.

If you have been involved in a collision with a truck, you may be concerned about how you’re going to make ends meet. You may be confused about how to go about seeking compensation from the negligent driver. That’s understandable. Not only are truck accidents likely to be serious due to the size of the vehicles involved, but they are legally more complex and may involve multiple parties, including the driver’s company, truck owner, truck manufacturer and others.

Steve Heisler has been helping injured people in Maryland for more than two decades with all types of vehicular accidents. Steve’s thorough investigation will uncover all potential defendants in your case, demanding just compensation for your medical expenses, rehabilitation, loss of income, and pain and suffering. If you lost a loved one because of a big rig driver’s negligence, Steve can help your family recover through a wrongful death lawsuit.

You’d better believe the trucking company and its insurer will have a team of lawyers to protect their interests. Contact Steve Heisler, The Injury Lawyer, to protect yours. Call 1-410-625-4878 for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation, or use our online contact form.