Now, The New York Times reports that self-driving trucks may be closer on the horizon than expected, a development that would not only revolutionize the trucking industry, it could make for fewer trucking accidents.
According to the report, the venture capital industry has been investing heavily in self-driving technology. Just this year, investors and firms have placed over $1 billion into development of self-driving technologies for large trucks – and that is 10 times what was being invested three years ago. The potential for growth opportunity is exponential, though our Orlando truck accident lawyers know it may raise some interesting legal questions.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has noted an uptick in trucking accidents in recent years, rising 8 percent between 2014 and 2015. This upward trend poses a safety threat on Florida roads, particularly as the trucking industry has continued to grow with the rise of online shopping. Trucks – and their drivers – are increasingly called on to deliver goods and services, with a heavy demand placed on expedience.
Trucking is a $700 billion industry, so there is a great deal of motivation for making it more cost-effective and efficient – especially when one considers the industry loses billions every year due to truck accidents. The vast majority of those crashes are caused by driver error. Those losses don’t even include insurance premiums, which also soar following crashes. Of course, our attorneys are more interested in the human toll these collisions take, but the trucking industry has cold, hard incentive for automation.
For all the talk of self-driving cars, the reality is self-driving trucks are likely to become reality much sooner than automated vehicles. This is due to a number of factors. First, automatic passenger cars would need to be able to safely navigate urban and suburban streets, which can be chaotic and unpredictable. Additionally, the market for self-driving passenger cars is going to depend heavily on the fickle decisions of individual consumers. The trucking industry, meanwhile, can make unemotional decisions about upgrading their fleets.
The chief executive for a self-driving car unit owned by the parent company of Google has publicly commented that self-driving trucks are likely to hit the market much faster than even self-driving taxis.
Many trucks already have a number of automatic features, including braking and systems for collision avoidance. Some large trucking firms are looking to implement automated lane steering in their fleets sometime in the next three years.
Still, there are a number of pressing legal questions that must be sorted through before this becomes a reality. For example, who will be liable when an automated truck is involved in a Florida trucking accident (which is almost inevitable at some point)? It’s likely we’ll be dealing with product liability in addition to a general negligence or vicarious liability action. The manufacturers of these trucks and/ or systems will likely be held to account to some degree. It’s also still possible drivers could be accountable, as many suspect the trucking industry will still require drivers for loading, navigating urban streets and unloading. The automation will most likely only be in place for the long, arduous stretches of highway navigated by most trucks.
Trucking accident lawsuits are complex as it is, and the advent of self-driving trucks (and even the automated technology currently in place) will only serve to increase these complexities. That’s why you should only trust your case to an experienced injury attorney.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Self-Driving Trucks May Be Closer Than They Appear, Nov. 13, 2017, By Conor Dougherty, The New York Times
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