As technology toward driverless cars advances, driverless 18 wheelers are in development. Does this mean that truck drivers will disappear, and with them, truck accidents in Houston and around Texas?
Political tension always exists over regulation to reduce 18 wheeler accidents and other truck accidents. The trucking industry recently sought to stall a measure that would require electronic driver’s logs to ensure that truck drivers were not driving hours in excess of safety regulations, while safety advocates supported it. And the Trump Administration recently shelved an Obama era regulation that required truck drivers be screened for sleep apnea – a serious sleep disorder that results in a person not getting enough oxygen during sleep which leads to fatigue – a measure that safety experts urged. These safety measures affects individuals and families who travel the roads in Houston, throughout Texas and across the country.
Yet the day may come that issues such as driver fatigue become moot. Or will it?
Will human drivers be obsolete?
Fortune Magazine reports that as driverless passenger cars are in development, technology firms are developing driverless 18 wheelers as well.
Starsky Robotics is one such Silicone Valley firm. It is developing technology aimed at replacing truck drivers in the cab altogether. With test models, a human remains in the cab of the truck to take over if needed. But CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher believes that ultimately, “Unless you’re getting the driver out of the truck, you’re not solving anything.” This could mean displacement of millions of workers employed in the trucking industry. But Starsky has a place for some of them.
Humans in remote control
The driverless technology would not totally eliminate human drivers, but instead move them to a remote operating position. The robotic technology would operate the tractor-trailer on the long haul once it enters the highway. But the navigation of the truck from its starting point to the highway, and then from the highway exit to load destination, would be handled by remote drivers in a command center, much like military drone aircraft. Remote drivers would monitor ten to thirty vehicles at a time. Starsky indicates experienced truckers would be hired for these positions.
Seltz-Axmacher sees the new technology solving an acute driver shortage and the grueling, unsafe hours on the road.
“It’s really hard to get drivers; there’s a shortage of about 75,000 drivers right now and the turnover is 100% per year,” says Seltz-Axmacher.
Can robots handle all the possibilities?
This video shows an experienced driver behind the wheel of a remote controlled truck on a test drive. But as experts in the video point out, a successful “one off” test under ideal road conditions makes it look easy. Can the robot handle adverse weather conditions? Or when mechanical components like brakes fail? The devil is in the innumerable details.
At The Callahan Law Firm, we recognize the advance of technology and how it can improve aspects of our lives. If robotic trucks make the roads safer for us all, then we applaud that future. Until then the shortage of truck drivers means that the existing drivers are pushed to drive the maximum number of allowable hours, and in some cases more, which is a recipe for driver fatigue and error that puts lives at risk.
If you have been seriously injured or tragically lost a loved one in a collision involving an 18-wheeler, dump truck, concrete truck, garbage truck or other commercial motor vehicle whether in Texas or elsewhere throughout the United States, call or e-mail our experienced 18-wheeler accident lawyers now. The Callahan Law Firm stands ready to help you and your family get justice. We work on a contingency basis, meaning our firm is paid legal fees only if you make a recovery whether by settlement or verdict.