Is Autonomous Trucking Technology Safer Than a Human-Driven Truck?

Trucking Technology

In recent years, state-of-the-art technology has enabled companies to begin seriously considering the use of self-driving systems for commercial vehicles in the transportation and shipping industries. Silicon Valley-based is among those laying the groundwork to make autonomous commercial trucking a reality.

Recently, Plus released a voluntary safety self-assessment of the company’s Level 3 automated driving systems, industry publication reports. These systems are slated to begin mass production in China as soon as 2021. A Level 3 system is a step below a fully automated truck. Level 3 systems still need a human driver, but some functions are automated.

The assessments conducted by Plus were intended to measure two things:

  • The ability of autonomous trucks to drive the “middle mile” between shipping hubs and delivery destinations
  • The relative safety of autonomous trucks as compared to human-operated rigs

Plus states in its report that billions of miles of test driving in real-world scenarios will be necessary before the company can prove that its system is indeed safer than truckers driving big rigs in the traditional manner.

Criticism Over Voluntary Safety Reports on Autonomous Trucks

The self-assessments submitted by Plus and other self-driving vehicle manufacturers are informative. However, some industry experts have criticized the voluntary, non-standardized nature of these reports. Michael Ramsey is a connected-vehicle analyst from Connecticut-based research firm Gartner. He noted that these assessments are “more like marketing documents” than any rigorous or detailed mechanical evaluations, according to

Ramsey also pointed out that, even though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides a voluntary self-assessment template, no common standards currently exist among autonomous vehicle manufacturers.

What Safety Reports Are Supposed to Cover

In its voluntary safety self-assessment documents, the NHTSA provides a self-described “nonregulatory approach to automated vehicle technology safety.” This approach is based on several “priority” elements of safety design, including:

  • System safety, including design architecture, sensors, software, and communication capabilities
  • Operational design domains, which govern the specific conditions under which automated driving systems are supposed to operate
  • Object and event detection and response, intended to help autonomous vehicles recognize and avoid obstacles
  • Fallback risk conditions, which describe processes for transitioning self-driving vehicles to “minimal risk conditions” when problems arise
  • Vehicle cybersecurity, which must be robust enough to protect autonomous systems from hacking and other cyber attacks
  • Data recording systems, which are useful in accident reconstruction and efforts to prevent future crashes
  • Federal, state, and local law adherence, since self-driving vehicles will eventually be responsible for observing all applicable rules of the road

 Contact an Experienced Truck Driver Accident Lawyer

It’s unclear when fully automated, self-driving trucks will be safe enough to roam the roads. But the current reality is that human-driven trucks are still involved in thousands of accidents in the U.S. every year. If you have been injured in an El Paso trucking accident, you could be entitled to compensation for your losses. Contact the Law Offices of Michael J. Gopin, PLLC, today to discuss your crash in a free, no-obligation case review.

Michael J. Gopin

Michael J. Gopin has practiced law in El Paso since 1987. Even after more than 30 years, he still remembers his first jury case. It was two weeks after receiving his license, when he represented a person whose life had been forever changed after being blinded in a work-related incident...


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