Semi-trucks are an irreplaceable part of the shipping industry that brings goods to people in all corners of the country.
They are also involved in an incredible 10% of all fatal traffic accidents in the country each year, including trucking accidents that resulted in 600 fatalities just in Texas in 2020.
These are numbers that trucking accident lawyers see rising every year considering the hundreds of thousands of these vehicles that are on the nation’s highways, 8500 of which pass through Texas on a daily basis.
Drive shortages and the number of less-experienced drivers on the road have only served to increase the frequency of these events.
The Rise of Autonomous Trucks
Though there are still millions of semi-trucks on the roads, the carrier industry continues to experience severe driver shortages, making the trucking industry more strained and increasingly dangerous as a whole.
One solution meant to solve two problems at once is the switch to autonomous trucks.
Some industry leaders believe that autonomous, self-driving trucks can solve the driver shortage issue while also reducing the number of trucking accidents, as they are programmed to travel remotely and safely.
On the other hand, many safety advocates argue that the technology has been developed too quickly and is too risky to put unmanned trucks on the highway yet, something that the state of Texas plans to do as early as next year.
Texas To Unveil Autonomous Trucks In 2023
In what will be a first for the autonomous trucking industry, the state of Texas plans to allow the first self-driving, robot-piloted trucks onto the highways in early 2023 despite outcry from safety groups.
While TxDOT sees this as a great opportunity to help a budding industry in a state with a massive freight market, others point out that in doing so, they are ignoring the need to avoid implementing regulations that could result in safety issues.
The state believes that based on its 2017 regulation to spur the development of AVs, opening the roads to self-driving semi-trucks will be a boon to the AV industry as a whole and equally so to the Texas economy, which could generate an estimated $250 to $400 billion by the end of the decade.
Safety Concerns With Texas Autonomous Trucking
Putting financial gains aside, safety advocates share the opinion that without specific regulation, self-driving tractor-trailers open the door for more truck accidents, not fewer.
Most specifically, they point out that TxDOT is instead allowing autonomous trucking manufacturers to develop and test their vehicles on Texas highways without special registration, additional insurance coverage, third-party data sharing, and other factors, all of which create additional risk to Texas drivers.
The state claims that it has a team of hundreds of industry experts working on this project who find that as long as self-driving trucks obey traffic laws, they are considered safe while opponents see it merely as an opportunity for businesses to bring their unfinished developments to Texas as a fast-track to getting them on the road.
While research on the causes of trucking accidents suggests that autonomous trucking can greatly reduce the number of incidents caused by driver error, distracted driving, and other human-related causes, it does not remove the problems of poor vehicle maintenance, issues with self-driving technology, and other concerns.
In addition, although there are already semi-autonomous vehicles being tested in Texas with no trucking accidents reported as of yet, the switch to full automation with no backup drivers on board is what some find to be the most concerning.
Experienced Truck Accident Lawyers Can Help
As the argument over whether or not to allow fully autonomous trucks onto Texas highways rages on, truck accident lawyers remain busy handling the growing number of truck accident lawsuits in the state each year.
Attorneys also find that the use of autonomous trucks will add yet another layer of complexity to these Texas accident cases.
Whether an accident involves a standard semi-truck or one piloted using autonomous technology, affected drivers should seek out highly experienced semi-truck accident lawyers to help them with their cases.
Hildebrand & Wilson, LLP
7930 Broadway, Suite 122
Pearland TX 77581
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