Self-Driving Trucks Set to Hit U.S. Highways

Autonomous semi-truck with cargo trailer drives at Night on the Road with Sensors Scanning Surrounding

Many fear autonomous trucks are an “accident waiting to happen.”

The prospect of self-driving trucks carrying cargo down the highway has been discussed for years. But now it’s about to become a reality. Beginning later this year, Aurora Innovation Inc. plans to put 20 autonomous trucks on the road to haul freight on I-45 between Dallas and Houston.

The company has been testing these vehicles for years and claims they are safer than human-driven trucks. They point out that laser and radar sensors can “see” much farther than human eyes can. They also claim that technology has another advantage over human drivers—it won’t get tired, distracted, or impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Autonomous trucks have already been hauling freight on public highways since 2021, though with human safety drivers on board. During that time, there were only 3 crashes, all caused by the actions of human drivers in other vehicles, said Chris Urmson, Aurora CEO.

Many are worried about the safety of driverless trucks

People who will be sharing the roads with these trucks are worried.

“It sounds like a disaster waiting to happen,” said Kent Franz, a high school basketball coach in Chandler, Oklahoma. “I’ve heard of the driverless cars – Tesla, what have you – and the accidents they’ve been having. Eighteen-wheelers? Something that heavy, relying on technology that has proven it can be faulty? Doesn’t sound very comfortable to me.”

Safety experts also have concerns.

Computers can make errors, said Phil Koopman, a Carnegie Mellon University professor who studies vehicle automation. And the quality of safety engineering will determine how these trucks operate on real roads. He also wonders how companies will balance safety decisions with billions of dollars in investments at stake.

“Everything I see indicates they’re trying to do the right thing,” he said. “But the devil is in the details.”

More autonomous vehicles expected to hit America’s highways

Urmson said Aurora won’t compromise safety even if it means delaying turning a profit, which is currently expected to happen by 2027 or 2028.

“If we put a vehicle on the road that isn’t sufficiently safe – that we aren’t confident in the safety of – then it kills everything else,” he said.

The company plans to eventually put “thousands or tens of thousands” of such trucks into service in the United States.

Other companies—including, Gatik, and Kodiak Robotics—also plan to deploy driverless trucks soon.

Koopman said there are currently no federal regulations that specifically cover autonomous vehicles, and most states don’t either. The public must trust the companies that manufacture and operate the trucks to take appropriate safety measures.

You need an experienced truck accident attorney if you’re injured

It’s only a matter of time before one of these self-driving trucks is involved in a collision that leaves someone seriously injured—or worse. Taking legal action against the company that owns the autonomous truck will be complicated. There’s a lot at stake, and companies, insurance carriers, and attorneys are likely to fight against claims for compensation.

At Fried Goldberg LLC, more than 95% of our practice is dedicated to truck accident cases. With over 100 years of combined experience handling truck accident cases, our attorneys have a thorough knowledge of the complexities of trucking litigation. We even wrote the book on it – “Understanding Motor Carrier Claims,” now in its seventh edition. We also teach other lawyers how to build successful cases that get results.

We’ve helped clients injured in truck crashes recover nearly $1 billion in compensation in more than 40 states. If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, we can help. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.

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