In the movie Duel, Steven Spielberg’s directorial debut, a motorist is terrorized by what appears to be a driverless tractor-trailer. A frightening scenario to be sure, but thank goodness it’s only science fiction. We don’t need to worry about 40-ton semi-trucks barreling down the highway with no one behind the wheel for at least a few decades, right? Actually, maybe we do.
In a recent interview with the Financial Times (FedEx Freight calls for US self-driving truck regulations), FedEx Freight CEO Michael Ducker said that self-driving trucks are “coming faster than many people think, just because technology is advancing so rapidly.” Ducker noted that it is not technology that is holding back the development of driverless tractor-trailers, but rather the lack of acceptance by society and the absence of governmental regulations to guide the industry.
The good news is that the self-driving trucks being developed will not truly be driverless. Decker compared future automated truck drivers to airline pilots, who are highly trained but use autopilot for the majority of their flying time. The pilot personally handles takeoffs and landings, continuously monitors the instruments, and is available in the event of an emergency. Similarly, the driver of an automated tractor-trailer would maneuver the vehicle in confined areas for loading and unloading, but allow automated controls to take over driving responsibilities on the open highway.
Ducker suggested a national certification process for drivers of automated commercial vehicles, similar to the pilot’s license required by the Federal Aviation Administration. New guidelines for driverless trucks are expected to be issued by the United States Department of Transportation in the near future, and the individual states will no doubt weigh in as well.
Most trucking industry experts claim that driverless trucks will be safer than tractor-trailers operated by human drivers, but you can be certain there will still be accidents. And just like now, there will be a dizzying array of federal and state regulations that may or may not apply to your case, making it crucial for you to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer. Please contact Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman today for a free consultation. We will only receive a fee in the event of a successful resolution of your case.