Autonomous Semi-Trucks: How Safe Are They?
Thanks to the developments in the field of logistics and delivery, there is a rise in e-commerce and same-day delivery across the world. Trucking is becoming an important part of moving the world forward. Trucks transport more than 70% of all freight in the United States. Without these vehicles, most businesses would run out of products within days.
That’s why the trucking industry is learning how to make the most out of these trucks. Right now, the latest trend in the industry is autonomous semi-trucks or self-driving trucks. Experts and manufacturers believe that these trucks will revolutionize how we transport things. But are these trucks safe?
A truck accident is every driver’s nightmare. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know what went wrong. But that may not be the case with autonomous commercial vehicles. This article will explore the same and tell you if this type of truck is safe or not.
Understanding Autonomous Semi-Trucks
It seems like every day there’s a new development in technology that can improve lives. The future of the trucking industry is not an exception to this trend. Autonomous semi-trucks are becoming popular as more companies use them in their operations.
Autonomous vehicles (AVs), whether they are cars or trucks, use AI technology. This includes sensors, often cameras, lidars, and radars. They send data to a computer, which operates the vehicle using knowledge from extensive training and simulation.
Creating an autonomous truck may be simpler than creating an autonomous vehicle. That’s because trucks often follow fixed routes and spend more time on highways. Compared to surface streets, highways are more predictable and user-friendly.
Additionally, their large size offers more computing power and a broader field of view for sensors. That makes trucks the best platform for autonomous technology.
Benefits of Using Autonomous Semi-Trucks
Autonomous vehicles have positive impacts on society, the economy, and particular businesses. These cars are expected to bring in almost $2 trillion in revenue in the US alone. They also increase commercial prospects for the transportation sector and lower traffic accidents. Let’s take a look at these advantages in detail.
1. Autonomous Semi-Trucks Reduce Traffic and Accidents
The truth is that over 4,000 people die each year in car accidents involving an 18-wheeler. What is truly mind-boggling is that this is only a small part of the 330,000 large truck accidents that occur each year. Driver error causes approximately 90% of all accidents. Driverless semi-truck companies have the potential to reduce those figures.
Self-driving trucks will relieve the freight industry of battling fatigue. Truckers are in a race against time to get to their destinations. Without restrictions, self-driving trucks will face a new set of incentives. Speeding during rush hour is no longer needed.
These distinctions make the freight system safer, more efficient, and human-centric.
Self-driving trucks will be able to operate without the need for driver rest breaks. Also, autonomous self-driving trucks can plan their routes to avoid congested cities. Autonomous semi-trucks will improve traffic flow since they will avoid traffic jams.
Machines don’t get tired, stressed, or distracted, which makes the road a whole lot safer. Self-driving trucks also make use of electronic stability control. This technology assesses road conditions and adjusts vehicle management to prevent skidding and rollovers.
Autonomous semi-trucks could set a new standard for truck safety. Its systems can watch things, process more data, and respond faster than human drivers. So it has the potential to reduce the number of road accidents and fatalities.
2. Autonomous Commercial Vehicles Cut Costs
Autonomous semi-trucks could reshape businesses’ supply chains. This technology would help them optimize future industry supply chains and logistics operations. Businesses would then have higher efficiency and flexibility than ever.
Autonomous semi-trucks combined with smart technologies will reduce labor costs. In turn, they increase equipment and facility productivity. Leveraging autonomous semi-trucks can also reduce load sizes and stockpiles.
Self-driving trucks know the right routes to take to avoid expensive delays. They can save on shipping costs and trip time by choosing more efficient routes. You can also program them to maintain appropriate driving speeds. Additionally, electric trucks won’t need gasoline derived from petroleum.
Because of this, there will be a 10% reduction in fuel consumption. This can also lessen emissions by up to 20%. Self-driving trucks communicate through radar or Wi-Fi. This adjusts the distance between these trucks to reduce air drag. Narrowing the gap between each truck improves fuel economy.
3. Autonomous Semi-Trucks Solve Driver Shortages
There is a demand for truck drivers globally. In the United States alone, there is a demand for 48,000 truck drivers. For this reason, some companies overload their trucks to make it on time. The shortage also pushes their drivers to work longer hours. This is not a good thing, which is why they need to find new ways to deliver their goods on schedule.
This is a global issue. Several driver shortage solutions are being put forward to solve the problem. The bad news is that these solutions are not enough.
Fortunately, self-driving trucks can fill in the shortage gap. The use of these trucks is becoming more of a possibility as a way to reduce the number of drivers on the road.
Autonomous semi-trucks will most likely focus on highway routes. But growing demand for drivers for first-mile pickups and last-mile deliveries in urban areas remains. These jobs are for people who want to drive but can’t make the lifestyle work for their families. As a result, the industry will work a little bit better for its employees.
Aside from that, it also generates new types of jobs in the industry. Truck drivers will have new opportunities to help businesses with product shipping. They can keep track and manage trucks from an office or their homes. Because of this, more people can enter the transportation sector.
It also gives drivers more time to sleep, less stress, and more comfort and security.
What Are the Risks Associated With Using Autonomous Semi-trucks?
Self-driving semi-trucks are taking over from traditional trucks, but they are still in development. That means that using these semi-trucks is not completely safe. Some of the risks associated with using an autonomous semi-truck include:
1. The Safety of Others
Manufacturers program autonomous semi-trucks to obey the law at all times. This is so that they can make fewer human mistakes along the road. But using these trucks can only prevent two-thirds of crashes. While these trucks follow the road rules, car accidents can still happen due to other driver’s negligence.
An autonomous semi-truck may be unable to predict what another driver or vehicle is about to do. This is particularly true if the driver does not use any type of signal.
Self-driving commercial vehicles would have to do more than follow traffic laws. They should also adjust based on road and weather conditions. So designers must focus on safety over driver preferences.
Road accidents involving trucks often lead to severe injuries. And these injuries require urgent medical care or even surgery. Truck accident injuries can be in the form of:
- Back and neck injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Head and brain injuries
- Amputation and disfigurement
- Internal injuries
- Cuts, bruises, lacerations, and broken bones
2. Technology Failure
Another issue is how drivers in the vicinity of the truck will know it is not driven by a human. Technology can fail, and when we see a reckless driver on the road, we usually call 911.
Even with the advancement of technology, we cannot be 100% sure that mistakes would be averted. Will self-driving trucks be the same? Will they run into something and have to reroute if they go off course? Autonomous semi-truck companies should come up with a better solution.
3. Losing Track of the Autonomous Semi-Trucks
One final risk factor is that the autonomous commercial vehicle gets lost or stolen. How will the truck owner regain control if they lose sight of the vehicle? Furthermore, what are the autonomous semi-trucks doing? Does it keep driving without instruction, or does it pull over to the side of the road?
What if the autonomous semi-truck gets stolen and an accident occurs? There are still many variables to consider when it comes to self-driving commercial trucks. Will the alleged reward outweigh the risk? Truck accident lawyers manage truck accident cases involving autonomous semi-trucks.
Who Is Liable for Autonomous Semi-trucks Accidents?
Laws and insurance policies are still attempting to adapt to this new environment. There is currently no federal regulation governing this aspect of tort law. So there are no guidelines on how automated technology affects truck injury claims. But, if these trucks get into an accident, the following parties are liable:
- The company that created the self-driving truck
- The software programmers or a programming company that created the intelligence behind the truck driving and control. Under the current product liability rules, they are liable for defective systems
- The autonomous semi-truck companies are also liable if they fail to meet the standard duty of care. That is, if they allowed it to travel without a qualified human driver or if they failed to maintain the systems.
- Companies that load the truck can also be defendants. This is also true if the moving cargo caused the mishap or if the cargo breaks on the road
When Will Self-Driving Trucks Take Over?
It’s unlikely that all the questions and concerns will be addressed and laws will be in place by the time self-driving trucks hit our roads. There need to be enough safety features built into autonomous commercial vehicles. For the future of trucking, it should start with fleets that need highway travel and predictable driving conditions. That might be a safer option for early adoption anyway.
The main concern with self-driving trucks is that there is no human to take over. They’re traveling down the interstate, and it’s only computer program controlled. The autonomous semi-trucks may not deal with an abrupt change in the road or weather. If you get involved in an autonomous semi-truck accident, you need a good truck accident attorney on your side.
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