Will self-driving trucks lead to a reduction of truck accidents?

Self-driving vehicles may seem like something out of a sci-fi novel or movie, but as Pennsylvania residents may know, they are being developed for eventual use by a number of up-and-coming ventures. One of these companies, Embark — a self-driving truck startup — has officially revealed its highway autopilot system that it believes will be the “brain” of self-driving trucks.

By utilizing technology, such as cameras, radar systems and sensors, Embark’s technology senses the vehicle’s surroundings to prevent accidents. According to Embark’s chief executive officer, Embark’s technology is programmed to allow the vehicles to safely travel in most driving conditions. Moreover, when the unexpected occurs, the technology takes that new information and applies it moving forward.

Embark’s goal is not necessarily to develop autonomous trucks. Instead, its technology is meant to be used solely for when a truck has to travel on a long stretch of highway, particularly since in these situations, the trucks would probably not be sharing the road with pedestrians or cyclists and congested traffic is less likely.

In this manner, it could help truckers cope with truck driver fatigue and boredom that accompanies these situations. On long stretches of highways, Embark’s technology can kick in, and once the truck comes near a city, the technology will alert the driver, who would then take control of the vehicle. Embark now aims to grow its test fleet of vehicles, with the aim of an eventual rollout nationally.

Will self-driving technology be implemented on most semi-trucks in the future? Possibly. The technology is still new, so it remains to be seen how it will develop.

However, it does raise interesting liability questions. If a self-driving truck causes an accident, who is responsible? The truck driver? The truck company? The developer of the self-driving technology? These are interesting questions that may be answered in the future, if such technology becomes more common place. But, if any person is involved in a truck accident, whether the truck is equipped with autonomous features, he or she may want to consult with an attorney, to determine what steps to take next.

Source: Venture Beat, “Embark launches self-driving truck tech to ease driver fatigue on long highways,” Paul Sawers, Feb. 24, 2017