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Truck Drivers and Consumer Advocates Weigh in on Self-Driving Vehicles

Truck Drivers and Consumer Advocates Weigh in on Self-Driving VehiclesSince long before the cartoon The Jetsons put a clear vision of driverless vehicles in the public consciousness, there has been a feeling that navigation, direction, and piloting transportation would move away from requirements of human input. Even carriage drivers and cowboys historically leaned on the original autopilot functions: horses who knew their routes and required very little from a driver. Now, as the technology for true self-driving vehicles becomes not only a possibility but a reality, tested on roads across the country, many voices are speaking up to address their potential safety and economic issues, including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Real dangers on the roadway

Fully automated systems with the capability to control an entire vehicle may seem attractive in terms of convenience and efficiency, but they come with magnified risks, as well. Consider the complex task facing an automated vehicle when it is in danger of colliding with two different cars that are both carrying passengers. If the computer cannot avoid a collision and must choose – deliberately – which car to hit, the very idea of an auto accident changes. Does the system choose the target that will cause the least amount of harm to the person inside the automated vehicle, the one that will spare the passengers in one of the oncoming vehicles instead of the other, or perhaps the target that will cause the least likelihood of injury to the fewest number of people overall? This is just one example of why many groups, such as Consumers Union, have serious concerns about recently relaxed legislation on driverless vehicles, particularly given that the consequences of accidents involving large trucks are already more costly, both economically and in terms of human injury and mortality.

Fiscal consequences of autonomous trucks

Beyond the perils posed by the various driverless systems’ decision-making algorithms, self-driving trucks could also push a huge number of Americans out of careers, jobs that support whole families. The economic consequences cannot be overlooked. According to the American Trucking Associations, 3.5 million Americans are employed as truck drivers and another 3.9 million work in other trucking-related jobs. The potential loss of millions of commercial trucking jobs, as well as the serious safety and other economic concerns, must be kept in mind as the push toward driverless vehicles becomes a reality.

Regulatory status

In late September of 2017, various auto manufacturers promoted a bill on the national level to expedite the widespread utilization of self-driving vehicles, as well as to block individual states from prohibiting them. While this bill and others like it have thus far specifically excluded vehicles over 10,000 pounds, it is evident that such trucks will be next in line, as at least two manufacturers are currently developing self-driving trucks.  Earlier in 2017, a bill was enacted right here in Georgia that adopted regimes for testing and developing automated passenger vehicles and opened the door for commercial use of autonomous vehicles in the state.

Should self-driving vehicles, and particularly trucks, become prevalent, not only will roadway safety suffer and jobs be lost, but legal recourse for those injured by such vehicles may be difficult in a whole new insurance landscape and fault-finding reality. For the present, truck accident injury victims have the experienced Georgia trucking accident attorneys at Harris Lowry Manton LLP, to help gain the greatest possible legal justice. To arrange a no-obligation consultation, give our firm a call at 404-961-7650 for our Atlanta office, or in Savannah at 912-651-9967. You can also complete our contact form.


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