Could autonomous 18-wheelers bring an end to truck accidents?

It wasn’t long ago that you could have driven the 3,030 miles from Raleigh to Skagit County in the state of Washington without anyone wondering what you were doing or why. While the coronavirus has upended much of American life, it hasn’t stopped testing of autonomous freight trucks in Skagit, where the county’s western border is the Pacific Ocean.

On a recent sunny day, engineers took a big Kenworth truck out for a spin on the Paccar Technical Center in Mount Vernon. Because the vehicle’s sensors use light to detect lane edges, engineers were pleased that they were able to cede control of the truck to its computer’s artificial intelligence algorithms.

The goal of those working hard to design and then build autonomous 18-wheelers is, of course, to make money. That will be done in several ways: reducing overhead for trucking companies, improving fuel usage and reducing insurance costs by eliminating truckers and reducing or even eliminating commercial truck crashes that result in severe injuries and fatalities.

No one knows how long it will take for self-driving 18-wheelers to be capable of safely navigating highways and city streets. It seems likely that the technology is at least a few years away from being deployed in everyday transportation of goods, however.

For now, motorists must continue to contend with big rigs that are difficult for truck drivers to maneuver safely and stop quickly. The vehicles’ size and weight are among the many factors that contribute to truck accidents, of course. Other common causes include the following:

  • Truck driver fatigue: far too often truckers eager to meet employer expectations and income incentives drive too long and too far to be safe.
  • Distracted driving: in an increasing number of crashes, authorities find that a trucker was paying attention to in-dash electronics or his phone immediately before impact.
  • Impaired driving: the research documenting the detrimental effects of alcohol and drugs on drivers is overwhelming.
  • Excess speed: the biggest vehicles on the road take even longer and farther to come to a halt when driven at high speeds.

If you or a loved one has been in a commercial truck crash, contact a Raleigh attorney devoted to protecting clients in personal injury and wrongful death litigation across North Carolina.

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