Personal Injury

Driverless Semi-Trucks to Begin Freight Routes in Texas

Autonomous semi truck with sensors drives on freeway at night.

Self-driving trucks are poised to revolutionize the transportation industry. On a three-lane test track along the Monongahela River, an 18-wheel tractor-trailer recently demonstrated the capabilities of autonomous driving. As the truck navigated a curve, its sensors detected a trash can and a tire blocking two lanes. In less than a second, it signaled and smoothly moved into the unobstructed lane, avoiding the obstacles with ease.

This impressive feat was achieved by a self-driving semi outfitted with 25 laser, radar, and camera sensors owned by Pittsburgh-based Aurora Innovation Inc. Aurora plans to take this technology to the next level. Later this year, they plan to haul freight between Dallas and Houston with 20 driverless trucks. This marks a significant step forward in the adoption of autonomous vehicles on U.S. roads.

However, questions remain about the safety of these autonomous trucks and their potential to cause accidents. It is crucial to ensure that these vehicles can reliably detect and respond to unexpected obstacles and complex driving conditions. Additionally, there are concerns about the legal implications of accidents involving self-driving trucks and how liability will be determined. Addressing these safety issues and establishing clear regulations will be essential as Aurora and other companies continue to develop and deploy self-driving technology.

How many driverless semi-trucks enter the roadway?

Aurora Innovation Inc. and its competitors expect to see a significant increase in the number of self-driving trucks on America's public freeways within the next few years. These autonomous vehicles promise to revolutionize the logistics industry by running almost continuously without the need for breaks.

Unlike the initial ventures into autonomous ride-hailing services, which have faced numerous challenges, self-driving trucks are poised for widespread deployment. Companies such as General Motors' Cruise and Alphabet's Waymo have encountered setbacks with their robotaxi units, making autonomous trucking a more viable and immediate application for this technology.

Most companies, including Aurora, plan to start their freight operations in Texas due to the state's generally mild weather. With fewer pedestrians and fewer unexpected events compared to city environments, highways provide a more controlled and predictable setting for autonomous trucks. This strategic focus aims to ensure smoother operations and a quicker acceptance of self-driving trucks on the roads.

What are common safety concerns regarding driverless semi-trucks?

Public reaction to the idea of self-driving trucks on highways varies widely, with many expressing fear and skepticism. A recent AAA poll revealed that 66% of Americans feel uneasy about riding in an autonomous vehicle. The image of an 80,000-pound driverless tractor-trailer traveling at high speeds understandably raises concerns about safety.

Aurora and other companies in the industry have tried to ensure the public that their trucks can see farther than human eyes and never tire, get distracted, or become impaired. These companies argue that their self-driving semis can significantly reduce truck accidents caused by human error.

However, safety advocates caution that the absence of federal regulations leaves it largely up to the companies to determine when their vehicles are safe enough to operate without human drivers. Critics argue that while autonomous trucks might be safer in theory, the reality of their performance on real roads depends on the quality of their safety engineering and the rigor of their testing protocols.

How safe are self-driving trucks?

Aurora Innovation Inc. has undertaken rigorous safety testing to ensure its self-driving trucks perform reliably on public highways. Reporters recently observed Aurora's autonomous semis navigating a test track, where the trucks successfully avoided various simulated road obstacles, including pedestrians, a blown tire, and a horse. These trucks detected obstacles more than a quarter-mile away and responded appropriately.

During the test track demonstration, the trucks operated at 35 mph in a controlled environment. However, Aurora has also been testing its vehicles on Texas highways at high speeds with the help of human safety drivers. Since 2021, Aurora's trucks have autonomously hauled freight over 1 million miles on public highways with minimal incidents. The company reports only three crashes, all attributed to human errors by drivers in other vehicles.

A federal database tracking autonomous vehicle incidents since June 2021 shows 13 crashes involving autonomous semis, three of which involved Aurora. In every case, other vehicles caused the accidents.

Seeking legal help after a serious truck accident

While the advent of self-driving trucks promises to reduce crashes caused by human error, they are not foolproof. Malfunctions in these advanced systems can still lead to serious collisions, and when they do, trucking companies and any other responsible parties must be held accountable.

The highly skilled truck accident attorneys at Tracey Fox & Walters in Texas have extensive experience handling complex cases and securing compensation for crash victims. If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, we can fight to pursue justice and aggressively advocate for the compensation you deserve. To find out how we can help you, contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.

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