Big Rig Accident Lawyers Say Change Is on the Horizon
Trucking is a huge business in the United States and around the world. Every year, America’s hardworking truckers collectively haul more than 10 billion tons of freight over North America’s roads and highways. Without them, USA’s economy would grind to a halt. But it looks like their days of glory are coming to an end. The arrival of self-driving autonomous trucks has put their profession at risk of becoming history. Even if they can survive the age of automation, things will not be the same anymore, as any big rig accident lawyers can tell you.
The technology is already there
It is a well-known fact that companies like Google and Tesla have been working hard to develop driverless cars. In fact, some prototypes have already hit the road with some success, making international news headlines. What most people don’t know is that a number of truck manufacturers are in the game, too. In fact, the technology is already there.
German automotive company Daimler, the world’s biggest manufacturer of commercial vehicles, is testing a self-driving truck in Germany and Nevada. Recently, a convoy of semi-autonomous trucks drove twelve hundred miles across the European continent. Mining giant Rio Tinto is already using 45 driverless trucks to move iron ores in its Australian mines.
Driverless trucks are expected to hit the road soon
Compared to driverless cars, which still need to win over skeptical buyers (it looks like it will take a long time for people to warm up the idea of robots driving them around), driverless autonomous semi-trucks have a much better chance of hitting America’s roads much sooner. Why? The reason is economics.
Freight companies are always looking for ways to cut costs. It is estimated that the use of automated self-driving trucks will help the US freight transportation industry save $168 billion annually. That’s a huge amount of money going straight into the operators’ coffers, which makes these new breed of trucks all the more irresistible to them.
Savings in costs will come not only from laying off workers (an estimated $70 billion), but also from fuel efficiency ($35 billion), increase in productivity ($27 billion) and decrease in accidents ($36 billion). Yes, self-driving autonomous semi-trucks consume less fuel, can drive at all hours, and are safer on the road than conventional human-driven trucks.
The reason they aren’t already on the road
So what’s preventing trucking companies from acquiring self-driving autonomous trucks and putting them on the road? First, the technology is still new. It will take a while before such trucks are fully tried and tested on America’s highways.
The second, and more important, reason is legislation. Self-driving autonomous trucks will have a huge impact on the US economy. Currently, the trucking industry is the largest employer in 29 of USA’s 50 states. There are 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the USA and an additional 5.2 million people who don’t drive trucks but provide support to the drivers, according to the American Truckers Association.
The loss of such a huge number of jobs that can result from the wholesale adoption of autonomous trucks by the trucking companies can have catastrophic effects on the US economy and politics. There will likely be protests and violence across the nation. Therefore, it will take a while before regulations can be formulated to allow long-haul self-driving trucks on America’s highways.
The future belongs to automated trucks
Despite the obstacles and oppositions, there is little doubt among truck manufacturers and freight companies that the future belongs to automated self-driving trucks. So, the question is not if they will ever be allowed to operate on America’s highways, but whether humans will still be needed to operate them.
Currently, the technology that makes it possible for automated trucks to work independently 100 percent of the time doesn’t exist, which means they will need some form of human control. So, there is hope yet for truck drivers. But their job will be different. Instead of driving, they will likely be handling more mundane things like paperwork, routing, and scheduling.