Self-Driving Semis May Soon Dominate Long-Haul Trucking

Truck accident attorney in California

“This technology isn’t a question of if but when.”

Pilot programs for fully-autonomous trucks are racking up hundreds of miles on public highways in several states, primarily throughout the sunbelt, where favorable weather conditions and friendly regulations encourage testing.

Examples: TuSimple, the first automated trucking company to go public, hauls “freight from Phoenix to Tucson every day in autonomy,” Jim Mullen, chief administrative and legal officer, told Fortune magazine. Waymo, initially the technology brain behind Google’s automated vehicle program, recently announced that it would test Freightliner semis on public freeways across Dallas and Phoenix. And Plus, another provider of self-driving truck systems claims it has tested its autonomous trucks in 17 states.

No need to panic quite yet, however. Nearly all road tests of fully-automated semis today include a human safety driver in the cab, ready to take the controls if something goes wrong. But the ultimate goal remains: Driverless robot trucks on U.S. roads within the next decade or sooner. “From our view — and what seems to be the broader industry — this technology isn’t a question of if but when,” Andrew Culhane, chief strategic officer for Torc Robotics, told the trade publication FleetOwner.

Weighing the Pluses and Minuses

Supporters of turning over the wheel of a semi to a computer say this will make our roads safer. They point out that human error causes most highway crashes, including an average of 4,000 people killed each year in truck accidents since 2016. Business interests see driverless freight hauling as key to addressing supply chain issues and a national shortage of truck drivers. Trucking companies see big profit in replacing drivers with computers that can run a truck for 17 hours straight without a break.

But many safety experts say NOT SO FAST, questioning whether we should test 80,000-pound trucks alongside the driving public. Case in point: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is now looking into TuSimple after a tractor-trailer using the company’s driverless technology suddenly veered off an Arizona highway and slammed into a cement barricade. A video of the crash was shared on YouTube by a company whistleblower.

And what about the drivers that will be displaced by driverless trucks? Industry proponents say drivers will still be needed for “final mile” routes where the use of automated trucks is more challenging. They add that working closer to home will significantly improve the grind of long-haul trucking. Unions are not buying these rosy predictions, citing studies showing driverless technology killing up to 500,000 jobs. And trucking companies already have a reputation for pushing their drivers to the physical, emotional, and financial brink.

Who is liable if a self-driving truck accident causes an injury?

What Happens If There’s a Crash?

One other significant wrinkle yet to be ironed out by regulators and lawmakers is the question of liability: Who is responsible if a driverless truck is involved in a crash that causes injuries or deaths? Is it the company that manufactured the autonomous truck? Is it the company that programs, installs, and monitors the driverless technology? Is it the trucking company that owns the truck? Is it all three?

These are pivotal questions as the legal action required to bring a claim against a truck manufacturer, or a software company is much more complex than pursuing the trucking company.

We Want to Know What YOU Think?

So, where are you on sharing the road with driverless semi-trucks?
  1. Do you trust the technology enough to support testing driverless trucks on public roads?
  2. Would you personally be more comfortable knowing you are driving next to a driverless truck?
  3. Who should be held responsible for a crash involving a fully-autonomous truck? The trucking company? The truck manufacturer? The technology company?
  4. Should we trust trucking companies to responsibly implement driverless technologies, knowing that every year the trucking lobby fights state and federal legislation that would make them more accountable for deadly trucking accidents?
Use the You Should Know Feedback Page and tell us what you think and why. All answers are anonymous, but we’ll share highlights next time.

400 + 5 Star Reviews!

Kristopher R.

Chances are you’re here because you or someone close to you has been hurt. Your life has been turned upside down. The “it’ll never happen to me” mentality gets thrown out the window- No pun intended. And chances are you know someone who knows some lawyer who did a thing and blah blah blah. [READ MORE]

Jamie Lee

They handled my case involving a car accident. They’re extremely polite and professional. Any questions I had they addressed them immediately, I never had to wait for a reply. Everything about my experience with this firm has been the absolute best. I without a doubt recommend them [READ MORE]

Charlie Criner

5 Stars! Outstanding firm dedicated to “righting wrongs” for people in need! So glad I contacted [READ MORE]

Hilary H

I am so pleased with James Mckiernan and associates! We had the pleasure of Robert Bell, and he was amazing!! He helped us out tremendously, and would highly recommend him again. Thank you so [READ MORE]

Howard Harvey

Mr. John Hayes had assisted my wife in a settlement and help take good care of her accident claim. He helped to ensure that she receive full compensation through recourse of mediation and gave her security that she was being led in a rightful [READ MORE]

Marcos Meraz

Yes they are very good use them a lot also recommended them they are very good and [READ MORE]

Google Analytics Alternative