ALEXANDRIA, Louisiana. According to the Los Angeles Times, truck drivers may be replaced by autonomous vehicles within the next decade. The shift may prove to be complex. Economically, truck driving is one of the leading careers offering middle class pay to those who do not have a college degree. If self-driving trucks hit the market, 1.7 million truckers could be out of a job in the next ten years. The economic effect is largely to be one in which high-wage jobs replace low-wage low-skilled jobs. Many states are moving toward regulating self-driving vehicles, some even permitting testing. It seems that the technology is largely in place to make self-driving vehicles a reality. According to Wired, Waymo, a company under the Google umbrella, is investigating ways to use driverless technology in the trucking industry. According to the company, self-driving trucks may make roads safer and prevent some 4,000 deaths and 116,000 injuries that occur due to truck accidents. Waymo isn’t the only company looking to break into the trucking industry. Tesla also plans to unveil its own semi truck model in September.
The big leap will require regulators, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to find ways to regulate self-driving large trucks. But don’t expect truck driving to become a completely obsolete job. Self-driving technology is safest on highways where there are few traffic lights and unexpected hazards. When it comes to driving on city streets or urban areas, truck companies may need to have truck drivers on hand. While Wired claims that self-driving companies are looking for ways to make vehicles completely autonomous, in the race to release self-driving trucks, some companies may be willing to compromise on this goal.
Does this pose a risk? One of the risks of a vehicle that is only partially autonomous involves doubt on the part of the human operator. Human operators can become complacent if they believe the vehicle can handle itself, as was seen in a Tesla crash in Florida this year, where a driver ignored warnings from his vehicle to take over the wheel. When there is ambiguity of when or where a person should intervene, the “driver” could be distracted, asleep, or on their phone when they need to be present to react, a potentially dangerous situation. If drivers know that vehicles can operate on their own on the highway, they could be tempted to let the autonomous function work in an urban area, where the consequences of an error are much greater. However, companies looking to make trucks autonomous claim that the trucks could be self-driving on highways, allowing truck drivers time to sleep, so that they are alert when the driving is most critical. Other innovators suggest that trucks will operate in long chains, or platoons, with a human driver at the front of a long chain to brake in the event that the platoon is cut off by another driver. However, having such a cluster of trucks on the road at one time could pose serious liability concerns.
We are still a long way off from seeing driverless trucks take over American roads. Until then, truck drivers remain responsible for many of the accidents that occur. Of course, drivers don’t act alone. They act under the pressure of companies for whom they work. When companies break the law, the people who are most often hurt are other drivers on the road. The Jones Law Firm are truck accident lawyers in Alexandria, Louisiana who protect victims and families who have been hurt due to the negligence of drivers or companies. If you’ve been hurt in a traffic accident, you may only have a limited amount of time to make a claim under the law. Visit https://www.hdjoneslaw.com/ to learn more about your rights.