Eighteen wheelers and tractor trailers are a critical link in the chain of commerce in this country, but they also contribute to thousands of car accidents, injuries and deaths each year on our nation’s highways. Autonomous trucks could theoretically replace human drivers and significantly reduce the number of accidents – at least the ones caused by human error.
An article in Trucks.com analyzes a report on advanced technology and commercial vehicles by Alexander Potter, an analyst at an investment banking firm. His take? Though autonomous trucks already being tested on the highway in several states in the U.S., they won’t be taking over the jobs of human truck drivers anytime soon: “Arguably, it’s irrelevant to talk about whether robot drivers will replace humans. Many drivers cannot be displaced. They do much more than just drive.”
Potter also mentions several ways that some levels of automation will help human drivers while not yet taking over for them, such as platooning, a tactic which links a convoy of trucks digitally allowing them to travel closely together to reduce drag and save on fuel. Another option is quasi-automated runs where less skilled drivers would pilot autonomous trucks. Finally, automation could be used to extend driving time limits. The FMCSA imposes hours of service limits to truck drivers, but if an autonomous truck could allow a driver to get some rest, it could improve freight productivity.
What about local delivery autonomous vehicles?
Waymo, which is Google’s autonomous vehicle manufacturer, is urging the California DMV to expedite regulations that would allow small, self-driving delivery trucks to begin road testing. These vehicles are already being tested in Phoenix, Texas and Atlanta, which is beginning to raise concerns voiced by the Teamsters.
In Ann Arbor, Michigan, the REV-1, a compact, four-foot tall robot that weighs 80 lbs. and travels at top speeds of 15 miles per hour is designed to make local deliveries in a half mile to 2.5-mile radius. The nimble, three-wheeled vehicle can travel in bike lanes and vehicle lanes, which will help it to move through traffic easily. Currently, the REV-1 is doing food deliveries from two local restaurants for company employees, but they hope to open the service to the general public soon.
Another autonomous delivery vehicle, Nuro’s R1, can achieve speeds of up to 25 miles per hour and is designed to be used for “everything from your ecommerce packages to deliveries from your local drycleaner,” said Dave Ferguson, one of Nuro’s co-founders. However, unlike UPS, which has drivers which will deliver your package to your door, Nuro requires that the customer be home and come out to the vehicle to retrieve their packages.
Yes, the world is changing quickly thanks to technology, but despite our human foibles such as trying to down a cheeseburger, text a friend or groom ourselves in the mirror while driving drunk or too fast, there are innate skills and talents that human drivers possess that robots cannot come close to replicating.
If you have sustained an injury in a trucking accident, whether it was caused by a human or a robot, the experienced New Jersey truck accident lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow will fight for your right to compensation for your injuries and other losses.
You can contact the team at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP to schedule a free consultation today at 732-384-1331 or complete the contact form today. We have offices in Edison, Toms River, or Red Bank for your convenience.