Modified: November 2, 2022

Are Automated Trucks Safer for Our Highways?

Are Automated Trucks Safer for Our Highways?
Are Automated Trucks Safer for Our Highways?

The general shortage of truck drivers, which is usually highlighted in times of global pandemics such as Covid-19, has always been a big problem in the freight industry.

In hopes of a feasible solution, support for the introduction of automated driving systems has gradually gained momentum.

It seems that automated trucks are the future, and it is only a matter of time before we see many of these vehicles on the highway.

This has resulted in many people asking questions about how self-driving trucks will affect road safety and the availability of employment opportunities for existing human drivers.

A quick look at the records of accidents in the trucking industry will show trucks have always posed one of the greatest dangers on the road. Whether the introduction of automated vehicles will make the roads safer is one of the questions road accident lawyers, such as Michael P. Ehline, is ready to answer.

The vast experience in road accident cases, of which truck accidents are a significant part, means that Michael Ehline and his team of experts are in the best position to assist you.

How Can Ehline Law Firm Help?

We can swiftly answer any questions you might have regarding self-driving vehicles. Whether you are an accident victim or a human driver wanting to know what the automated driving system means for your career and rights as a truck driver, Ehline Law Firm can help provide the answers you need. Come to any one of our offices across the country for a free consultation.

We can assist truck drivers and accident victims with the following:

  • Details on everything there is to know about automated vehicles
  • Clarity on how the use of self-driving trucks impacts truck drivers
  • Representation and provision of legal advice in cases where a self-driving vehicle is involved
  • Fighting for victims to receive fair compensation from insurance companies.

What Are Self-Driving Trucks?

Sometimes referred to as automated trucks, self-driving trucks are vehicles that do not require human drivers but rather use sophisticated artificial intelligence software and high-resolution sensors to navigate highway driving in the transportation of goods from one point to another.

What Is the Purpose of These Automated Vehicles?

The pursuit of efficiency and a reduction in truck accidents has pushed trucking companies to invest in research on automated driving systems. The following are some of the common justifications put forward by advocates of self-driving trucks:

  1. Increase in Efficiency

Current levels of competition in the transportation industry mean that for trucking companies, every minute counts. This pursuit of quicker turnaround times between deliveries is one of the significant causes of truck accidents.

Using a self-driving truck, delivery can be made in the shortest time possible by removing the need for rest stops along the way, which is something that is not possible with a human driver. An automated vehicle is also more reliable when it comes to being sidetracked the way truck drivers who have been on the job for a while tend to be.

  1. Possible Reduction in Truck Accidents

Driver fatigue and human error, two significant causes of truck accidents, will become a thing of the past with the introduction of driverless vehicles. Once properly programmed, self-driving systems will choose the safest way to complete the driving task.

The issues surrounding the effect on accidents caused by automated vehicles are still highly debatable, with many sectors of the trucking industry claiming that technology companies have not yet reached the required level of artificial intelligence to make such claims.

In theory, the benefits of machine learning can be applied to great use in the vast majority of truck driving tasks. However, it is probably too early to give self-driving trucks unlimited access to public roads, with most data currently being obtained in safe testing facilities.

  1. Need To Address the Changing Labor Market

The job market, especially in developed countries, has witnessed a considerable shift away from labor-intensive forms of employment, such as truck driving, as people opt for more sedentary lifestyles. The result of this changing labor environment is that even though human capital is available, there is little interest in taking up such jobs.

One possible solution to this problem is the introduction of automated motor vehicles within the trucking industry. With a reduced reliance on human intervention to complete a driving task, self-driving vehicles will allow a gradual redistribution of skills and labor that will hopefully bring balance to the labor market.

  1. Reduce Traffic Congestion

How often have you been stuck in traffic congestion caused by a human driver failing to properly negotiate an intersection or taking a shortcut through prohibited roads? A self-driving truck will reduce such incidents by sticking to the right roads and using advanced GPS technology to take corners properly.

While self-driving trucks will probably mean an increase in the number of trucks themselves on our highways in the coming years, improved driving skills and strict adherence to road safety will probably help traffic move more smoothly for all road users.

Self-Driving Trucks vs. Human Drivers

The question on everyone’s minds is, “Will self-driving trucks replace human drivers?” There are arguments in favor of both sides, and until self-driving cars and trucks are a regular occurrence on our highways, it will be difficult to know for sure.

A panel of experienced attorneys at Ehline Law Firm will be able to give you better insight into the virtues of each of these two options. In the meantime, the limited data from technology companies and the publicly available road accident statistics suggest the following to be true:

Arguments in Favor of Human Drivers

  • Public opinion still favors having a human driver behind the will due to a lack of trust in driverless vehicles.
  • Sometimes, a situation requires a human to make the right decision.
  • Hiring a human driver is much cheaper than buying a self-driving truck
  • Insurance cover for a regular truck is, in most cases, a lot easier to obtain than an automated vehicle
  • In case of an accident, people are likely to be more sympathetic to a human driver than to automated vehicles because a lot still needs to be done to gain public confidence.

Advantages of a Self-Driving Truck

  • Greater efficiency in conducting deliveries
  • Better overall driving skills result in improved fuel efficiency, which trucking companies are very interested in due to the current global energy crisis.
  • Better adherence to road safety and regulations might translate to safer road travel for everyone.

Disadvantages of Self-Driving Trucks

  • Self-driving trucks are a lot more expensive to purchase than regular trucks.
  • In case of a breakdown, it is not easy to repair an automated truck or find replacement parts because it is still a relatively new technology.
  • As with all computerized systems, there is a significant risk of hacking which can result in the theft of goods or even road accidents.
  • The current level of artificial intelligence is not well equipped to deal with sudden changes in road conditions, which every driver is trained to do.

Road Accidents Statistics for Automated Vehicles

Over the past few years, since the introduction of automated vehicles onto our roads, there have been reports of accidents involving these self-driving vehicles.

Although the data is still limited, the following stats are worth noting:

  • Rear crashes are the most common accident involving a self-driving vehicle, accounting for more than 62% of such accidents. In Second place, sideswipes cause 21% of crashes.
  • The rate of crashes involving driverless vehicles stands at 9.1 crashes per million miles driven, which is significantly higher than human-driven vehicle accidents, which are 4.1 per million miles.
  • One of the most prominent names in the automated driving system industry, Tesla, has experienced 11 accidents in the last four years.
  • Three Tesla drivers have lost their lives in such accidents.

Public Opinion on the Automated Driving System

Many surveys have been conducted over the years to gauge the public perception regarding the safety of automated vehicles on our roads.

The following results have pointed towards a generally varied opinion, with the most remarkable differences in opinion being between business owners and the rest of the general population:

  • A massive 20% of Americans believe that automated vehicles will never be safe. Among those that are less pessimistic, 75% think that these cars are not yet ready for our roads, and more than half of the respondents say they would not use a driverless vehicle
  • Only 12% of survey participants said they would feel safe in an automated vehicle
  • In contrast, 55% of business owners said their fleets would become utterly autonomous within the next 20 years. This shows that self-driving trucks are more famous for their economic benefits than their perceived safety features.

What Is the Law on Self-Driving Vehicles?

As of March 2022, the United States has taken an enormous leap toward fully legalizing automated vehicles. On the 5th of March, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that there is no need for motorized vehicles to have unique controls. However, these vehicles are still expected to continue providing the same levels of passenger safety as regular vehicles.

The Federal Autonomous Vehicle Policy also states that there are no new rules or regulations for states regarding vehicle automation. What they offer are simply guidelines meant to maintain general road safety requirements.

What this means is that there is a general move toward the full acceptance of automated vehicles. However, seeking legal advice before using automated trucks on public highways is wise. You can reach Michael Ehline by dialing (833) LETS-SUE and schedule a free consultation.

How Long Until We See Self-Driving Trucks on Our Roads?

At the moment, no fully automated vehicles are allowed on U.S. highways. The law states that at least one person has to be inside the vehicle in case of emergency, so it looks like we have to wait a bit longer before self-driving trucks are a common sight on the road.

However, with the automated vehicle industry growing at a rate of 16% per year, it is safe to assume the wait will only be a few more years. In the United States, for example, 41 states have moved to legalize self-driving trucks in anticipation of significant progress in this industry soon.

Final Word

Quite a bit of a grey area still exists regarding self-driving trucks’ safety and legality. As with all similar situations, the best thing to do is get the correct legal advice before putting yourself at risk. Michael Ehline and his great team of lawyers are here to help with any questions regarding automated truck safety. Contact us today at (833) LETS- SUE and book an appointment.

Top Notch American Injury Lawyer, Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline

Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.

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