Self-Driving Trucks: Lifesaver Or Liability?


Self-driving cars are being considered the next big leap in transportation, with Apple and Google spearheading efforts to bring the technology onto the roads. The idea of the self-driving car also extends to tractor-trailers and other large trucks, with the idea being that self-driving trucks can not only cut down on labor, but on vehicular accidents, as well.

The Idea Behind Self-Driving Trucks

The basic idea of the self-driving vehicle is pretty simple -- it's a fully automated vehicle that's capable of taking people to their destination with little to no human input. These vehicles are fitted with a wide variety of sensors and other equipment to help them not only visualize the road and its various obstacles, but also make critical split-second decisions to safely and efficiently avoid obstacles and other potentially dangerous scenarios.

The same applies to self-driving trucks, except that these trucks will be able to transport goods without the need of a human operator to be present. Without the need of a human operator who has to stop for food and sleep, a self-driving truck can travel on to its destination without stopping.  

Potential Consequences

It's no secret that humans make mistakes. Behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer, however, a mistake could result in fatal consequences. A massive shift to self-driven trucking could help eliminate many of the dangers that often lead to fatal crashes.

According to recent data, truckers logged more than 279 billion miles during 2014, with the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled standing at 1.40. Switching manned drivers with autonomous vehicles can dramatically decrease fatality rates by eliminating human errors caused by distracted driving, fatigue and impairment.

Some may argue that it's not yet showtime for the self-driving car. However, Google's self-driving car has already traveled 1.7 million miles in combined manual and autonomous driving during a 6-year period, with over 10,000 self-driven miles logged per week. During that time, the self-driving vehicle was involved in 11 minor accidents with only minor damage and zero injuries -- all caused by the actions of other drivers and not the self-driving vehicle itself.

According to recent figures from the American Trucking Association, there are 3 million people currently employed as truck drivers throughout the U.S. The advent of the self-driving truck could have major consequences for the average trucker, especially as self-driving trucks replace live human drivers in trucking fleets.

Who Assumes Liability?

When it comes to self-driving vehicles, the question of liability is one that has yet to be fully worked out among lawmakers and regulators, let alone insurance companies. In a typical accident involving manned vehicles, there's a driver who could be held responsible unless there's a mechanical defect and a subsequent, unavoidable loss of control involved. In an accident involving a self-driving truck, it could be argued that the truck itself is a defective product and that the liability falls on the manufacturer.

It's also important to consider the sheer number of components that help control a typical self-driving vehicle. Many of these components may be manufactured and/or installed by a subcontractor or third-party manufacturer. A defect in the automation system built by a third party, for instance, could make multiple entities liable for an accident caused by the defective component, and--like many auto accident  cases--will probably require the input of a car accident lawyer, such as Master Weinstein Moyer PC. This could add to the number of parties who are already involved in the event of an accident and potentially complicate the claims process in a way that's seldom seen in cases involving human operators.

Currently, it's unknown how federal or state courts will determine liability in accidents involving self-driving trucks or other autonomous, self-piloting vehicles. It's likely that the authorities will continue to grapple with this issue as self-driving vehicles become a more prominent fixture on the nation's roadways.


13 September 2016

Noni and the Accident

My name is Noni. When I was in college, I was hit by a car while crossing the street. My life was never in danger, but I did break a few bones and had a lot of huge medical bills. I was hoping I wouldn't have to get involved with an attorney, but unfortunately, it came down to that. I used a family friend who is an accident attorney to get some compensation. A few years later, I was hit while riding my bike and had to go through the same process. I suppose I'm lucky to be alive. And it's thanks to accident attorneys that I have been able to put my life back together. I started this blog as a way to let others know just how much lawyers can help you in certain situations.