Seeing a large commercial truck on the road behind or alongside one’s smaller vehicle can be a little unnerving for a lot of drivers. But, looking over and realizing there’s no one behind the wheel can be downright terrifying. Autonomous (“self-driving) trucks are the wave of the future, and they’re increasingly appearing on interstates and highways throughout the country. Texans will soon be seeing more of them if they’re driving near Austin.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) recently announced that it’s developing the “first-of-its-kind advanced and self-driving trucking corridor” in that area. This will involve “broadcasting digital roadway information to on-board automated systems” in these trucks, according to one Austin official. This will help them “navigate the roadway environment safely and more efficiently.” The co-founder of company that will be in charge of this project says the goal is to implement it by the middle of next year.
What is truck platooning?
Another practice that’s becoming more common across the country is something called truck “platooning.” This is where two or more trucks in a convoy are electronically linked. The idea is that they can follow closer behind one another than would otherwise be safe — reducing drag and fuel consumption. So far, Texas hasn’t enacted a law to allow it, but it is used in some southern and midwestern states. Specifics regarding how many of the trucks are required to have someone behind the wheel, even if the truck is autonomous, vary by state. This practice may soon become legal in Texas as well.
Determining fault in crashes involving autonomous trucks
When an autonomous truck is involved in a crash with a traditional driver-operated vehicle, issues around liability can potentially be more complex. There are a number of questions to consider.
If the automated truck was responsible for the crash, was it the fault of the person at the wheel, even if they weren’t controlling it? Should (and could) they have stepped in and done something to prevent the crash? Was the crash the result of an electronic malfunction or miscommunication? Then is the company controlling the communication at fault or is the trucking company?
These are just a few of the concern that need to be assessed in the wake of a collision involving an autonomous truck. This is just one reason why seeking experienced legal guidance is crucial when a crash victim is concerned about pursuing any compensation to which they may be rightfully entitled.