Self-Driving Trucks? One Company Wants to Put Them on the Road

Posted on Jun 01, 2016

According to The Washington Times, self-driving trucks may be a possibility in the near future. A new startup wants to create fully autonomous, self-driving trucks, innovating on last year’s self-driving Freightliner.

The self-driving truck that took Wolfgang Bernhard, member of Daimler’s Board of Management, and Nevada governor Brian Sandoval around Nevada last year was a test run; the new startup wants the truck to handle everything while the driver sleeps.

Who is behind these autonomous tractor-trailers?

You may have spotted Google’s self-driving cars navigating the streets of Kirkland. Well, some of the people behind those same cars are behind these big rigs.

A San Francisco startup known as Otto, headed by former Google employee Anthony Levandowski, has already tested a big rig guided by robotic tech on Nevada’s public highways. Levandowski played a key role in developing Google’s self-driving cars before forming Otto early this year with co-founders Lior Ron, Don Burnette, and Claire Delaunay.

What is Otto’s goal with these big rigs?

Otto hopes to create an autopilot-inspired system for commercial trucking rigs, where autonomous mechanical systems control 18-wheelers on the interstate and highways while human truck drivers take over the wheel for city driving and deliveries. The system would help cut costs for trucking companies, reduce truck accident rates, and help drivers get the rest they need on long runs.

Otto’s self-driving rigs come equipped with advanced software that uses cameras, lasers, special proximity sensors, and other devices to determine the necessary alterations to steering, speed, and braking in real time. The robotic driver is able to maintain its lane, keep tabs on nearby traffic, brake when approaching slower vehicles, and react quickly and safely in the event of a road hazard.

How might this affect insurance and liability?

How insurance and legalities surrounding these cars and their robotic drivers will work is still up in the air, but that has not stopped the development of more self-driving technology. No one is sure how self-driving trucks will impact insurance laws, or how courts will determine liability in self-driving truck accident cases. As self-driving vehicles develop further and become more popular, states must have discussions and create laws to address these issues.

Robotic drivers can help to eliminate many crashes, including the majority of those caused by driver error. However, accidents will certainly still occur. While most accidents involving self-driving cars to this point have been the fault of the other driver, the real questions come when two self-driving vehicles collide. With robotic big rigs, these questions include:

  • How will the courts determine liability when the robot is the at-fault party?
  • Will trucking companies be responsible for the mistakes made by their robotic drivers as they currently are for their human drivers?
  • Will problems with the autonomous driver fall on the software designer, or the truck driver and trucking company?

Call Max Meyers for accident help

Whether you are involved in an accident with a human driver or a Google car, Max Meyers Law PLLC can help you get the compensation you need to recover physically, emotionally, and financially. If you suffered injuries in a Seattle-area car accident, contact us today at 425-399-7000 for a free case evaluation.

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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.