Driverless Commercial Trucks Gaining Traction


Posted on December 10, 2019

It may come as something of a shock to learn that driverless commercial trucks have been frequenting portions of America’s highways for more than a decade already. Stretches of Interstate 10 are being used as a test track of sorts for autonomous vehicle manufacturers; all of which are rushing to get their products to market first. Standing in the way of industrial behemoths like Amazon and Tesla are legislative milestones that must be reached in order to see driverless semi tractor-trailers rolling down America’s highways en masse in a safe and controlled manner. 


Rather than impeding progress, these speed bumps in the deployment of autonomous vehicles are a vital means with which, as a society, we can examine the implications, explore the liabilities, and look at ways to enhance existing traffic laws and roadway engineering standards to accommodate such a momentous paradigm shift for how our nation’s goods are transported from A to B.


Trucking is the Most Heavily Used Mode for Transporting Goods

According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, trucking by far accounts for the greatest amount of goods moved around America’s logistics networks. Just between our NAFTA trading partners Canada and Mexico, trucks account for nearly 64% of the freight that is transported each year. The Federal Highway Administration’s 2018 statistics report that long-distance trucks can run in excess of 100,000 miles per year. Accounting for the majority of the cargo being transported around the country requires a massive amount of trucks to be on the road. 


Trifecta of Danger

Anyone driving on any highway in America knows the joy of traversing down the interstate being surrounded by semi-trucks. Creating a three-part perfect storm for causing serious trucking accidents we have: 


  • Sheer Numbers: there are an incredible number of semi-trucks on the roadway.
  • Vast Size: semi tractor-trailers are way bigger and heavier than the other vehicles sharing the roadway. 
  • High Mileage: Long haul truckers driving more miles than any other one vehicle class on the road. 


Simply by these numbers, there is a high probability of an accident occurring between commercial trucks and surrounding traffic. With our growing populations, the demand will only increase for the efficient logistics that trucking provides. Increased demand means more trucks.


Implications & Liabilities of Driverless Commercial Trucks

Many states have already begun enacting new legislation concerning autonomous vehicles in general but without the technology being fully developed, lawmakers have a difficult job of knowing what parameters need to be included. When there is no driver, who is at fault in an accident? What if there is a driver but they are in a remote facility like a drone operator? 


Considering various potential liabilities that may exist with autonomous tractor-trailers we find several possibilities:


  • Operator: many of today’s autonomous trucks are not fully autonomous and an operator is supposed to be monitoring the systems. In the event of a crash, the vehicle’s operator may hold some liability. 
  • Vehicle Manufacturer: the manufacturer of the vehicle is responsible for providing a safe vehicle to the general public. A glitch in the software of an autonomous truck on the roadway that causes an accident to occur might be an example of where the vehicle’s manufacturer holds liability after a crash.
  • Trucking Company: the company that owns the autonomous tractor-trailer has a responsibility to maintain the truck and have it regularly inspected. A failed system in the truck could cause the vehicle to lose control. If a trucking company does not properly maintain the vehicle, they may hold some liability if an accident occurs.


Necessary Changes to Infrastructure

Without significant improvements to our nation’s infrastructure, driverless commercial trucking is not only unviable but will be incredibly dangerous. In order for the vehicle to traverse the highway, there has to be an array of built-in technologies. Roadways will require sophisticated data transfer capabilities as traffic control systems talk to the vehicle and vehicles to each other – relaying important information about the state of the journey e.g. Is there standing water on the road? How fast is traffic progressing? Are there accidents/other impediments? The vehicle will take this information and process the most efficient way forward. However, this system will be costly to implement. Municipalities may be unwilling are unable to spend the necessary funds which could delay universal adoption of driverless trucking across the nation.  


Further, in a world where cyberattacks occur every 39 seconds on average, the question of vulnerability comes to mind. It’s terrible to think of the possibilities that a hacker infiltrating an autonomous tractor-trailer could perpetrate.


What To Do When You Have Been in an Accident with a Commercial Truck

When you or a loved one has been involved in an accident involving a commercial truck, chances are good the damages and/or injuries are severe. We’re here to help you get the restitution you deserve for all of these physical costs, as well as the emotional ones, and even what we call “human costs” – that’s the price of stripping away one’s liberties like never being able to do something you love again. 


After an accident, we all expect the other side to own up to their mistakes and offer a fair compensation. However, after 40 years in the industry, we’ve seen this to very rarely to be the case. After an accident, there are several steps you can take to maximize the compensation that may be available to you. 


  1. Call 9-1-1, file a report and get a copy.
  2. Get checked out medically and keep all records.
  3. Take lots of pictures and videos at the scene. 
  4. File a claim with your insurance carrier but do not admit fault.
  5. Secure an experienced Florida truck accident attorney.


We’ve developed a complete after-accident guide, which we recommend downloading as a copy to your phone or printing a copy and keeping it in your vehicle’s glovebox.


Call a Florida Truck Accident Team You Can Trust

Our Florida truck accident team is continually researching and staying abreast of new developments in the field. As the technology continues to improve and vehicles start rolling on America’s highways, our team stands ready to stand up for victims and their families trying to pick up the pieces after an accident involving a semi tractor-trailer. As already seen in the death of a pedestrian hit by an autonomous Uber vehicle, ramifications of pushing out technology before society has the tools to safely integrate them, is downright reckless.


Our intake specialists are available every single hour of the day and night, every day of the year. Contact us however you can after an accident and we’ll get your case started immediately. 

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