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Self-Driving Truck Accident Attorney

self driving trucks on the road

Self-driving trucks are coming to a highway near you, and sooner than you might think. Companies such as Waymo, TuSimple, Uber, Tesla, Volvo, and Embark are presently developing and testing self-driving trucks all across the country. Florida recently passed a law allowing self-driving vehicles that meet certain safety standards to operate in the state, without humans in the vehicle. 

The move towards autonomous trucks in America is due in part to a shortage of truck drivers. The American Trucking Association reports that there is presently a need for approximately 50,000 truck drivers in the trucking industry. The demand for truck drivers could reach 175,000 drivers by 2024.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there were approximately 450,000 truck accidents in the U.S. in a single recent year. Of those accidents, 4,237 were fatal, and 344,000 caused serious injuries. 

That means there were 13 fatal truck accidents per one million people. Not surprisingly, 82% of all fatal accidents involving trucks were occupants of vehicles other than the large truck. 

In March 2018, a self-driving vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in a crosswalk in Tempe, Arizona. The accident received national attention as it was the first fatality caused in an accident with an autonomous vehicle. 

As a result of the accident, Uber suspended its testing of self-driving trucks in Arizona. The accident also led to the federal government to pass legislation regulating the testing and use of self-driving vehicles. 

More recently, in a 2019 study funded by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the University of Louisville, it was determined that there were approximately 113 automated vehicle accidents in the United States between 2014 and 2018. 

However, it is difficult to obtain clear statistics about the exact number of self-driving truck accidents that have occurred to date as testing of automated vehicles is still ongoing in the field, and the test data is not disclosed to the public. 

At present, for most states, the Department of Motor Vehicles does not record information regarding accidents involving self-driving vehicles, including whether the self-driving mode was activated when the accident occurred, and how the automated vehicle responded immediately before the accident. 

Why Do Self-Driving Trucks Have Accidents?

There are different reasons why self-driving vehicles are involved in traffic accidents.

For example, in most autonomous vehicles, the drivers are expected to take control of the vehicle in case there is a problem with the automated system. If the self-driving vehicle is unable to make decisions based on roadway conditions, the human driver must ensure that an accident does not occur. 

In these instances, there is occasion for an accident to occur. If the human driver is distracted and fails to timely take-over the vehicle, a crash can occur. Problems can also arise if the human driver fails to realize the need to take over driving from the vehicle.   

Other factors that determine why self-driving trucks have accidents include the location where the accident takes place. Accidents with autonomous trucks are more likely to occur on the highway when the truck is driving at a high rate of speed, making avoiding an accident difficult for a human driver who takes control of the truck. 

Self-driving vehicles are involved in accidents when problems with the software that operates the autonomous vehicle arise. Accidents with self-driving vehicles can occur if the software fails to recognize a hazardous situation and respond accordingly. 

For example, the investigation into the Tempe accident determined that the self-driving vehicle’s software recognized the pedestrian in the crosswalk, but made the decision that the hazard did not require an immediate reaction.

Similar accidents can occur if the self-driving vehicle fails to properly recognize and respond to cyclists, children who may dart out into the street, police officers directing traffic, or unusual debris on the road. 

Autonomous vehicles operate by use of external cameras or sensors that take continuous readings from its surroundings to create a real-time picture of its immediate environment. Accidents are probable for self-driving trucks if their hardware breaks or otherwise malfunctions.

Of course, self-driving semi-trucks can also crash for the same reasons that regular trucks do. Self-driving trucks can have an accident if there is a mechanical failure with the vehicle. Crashes can occur if brakes fail or if the truck is not properly maintained or repaired. This might include:

  • Brake failure
  • Transmission failure
  • Rear guard failure
  • Broken headlights, taillights, and turn signals
  • Steering or suspension failure
  • Tire blowouts

Also, like any truck, self-driving truck accidents can happen if the truck is not loaded properly. Unbalanced loads pose a danger in that they can cause the truck to tip over, spilling its contents on to the road.

Types of Self-Driving Truck Accidents 

There are several types accidents in which self-driving trucks may be involved. Examples include the following:

  • Head-on CollisionsThese types of accidents occur when another truck, passenger vehicle, or bicycle strikes the self-driving truck head-on. This type of collision can often cause fatal injuries, especially for bicyclists and people riding in passenger vehicles. 
  • Underride AccidentsThese types of accidents can occur when the self-driving truck is forced to make a sudden stop. If the vehicle driving behind the self-driving truck cannot stop in time, it may get jammed under the tractor-trailer. Underride accidents can also be deadly as they often rip the roof off of a smaller vehicle. 
  • Rear-end CollisionsIf a self-driving truck has to make a sudden stop, but for some reason cannot stop in time, it will strike the vehicle in front of it on the road. Rear-end accidents can cause serious injuries, especially if the accident occurs at a high rate of speed. 
  • Jackknife AccidentsThis common type of accident can occur when a self-driving truck must brake suddenly. Upon doing so, the trailer can swing out to the side of the truck at a 90-degree angle. Jackknifed trucks are also prone to overturning. A jackknifed self-driving truck can cause damage to any vehicle in its vicinity. 

Risks of Self-Driving Trucks

Self-driving trucks pose several risks to its occupants, as well as to other vehicles on the road.

Drivers of self-driving tractor-trailers are easily lulled into a false sense of safety. As the self-driving truck continues moving across the highway, drivers may be fooled into thinking that they can relax, when in reality they need to be on high alert and ready to take the wheel if the truck encounters any dangers or hazards ahead.

Another risk of self-driving trucks is that their operating systems are vulnerable to being hacked. If a hacker can take control of the autonomous truck, they can take control of the vehicle. If a hacker cannot operate the autonomous truck properly, chaos could follow. 

Moreover, the hacker may be able to obtain passengers’ private information through cell phones and other devices connected to the truck’s systems via Bluetooth. 

Who Is Liable for a Crash with a Self-Driving Truck?

If a self-driving truck is involved in an accident with another vehicle, there may be several entities who may be at fault for the accident. 

If the operator of the self-driving truck failed to take control of the vehicle in an emergency, they could be deemed to be liable for causing the accident. 

The owner of the self-driving truck can also be held responsible for an accident if it can be proven that the software was defective or if it malfunctioned before the accident. An owner of a self-driving truck can also be held responsible if it failed to train its drivers properly. 

Other liable parties may include the company that manufactured the truck, as well as the company that manufactured the self-driving technology and its components. 

Contact a Truck Accident Attorney Today for Help

If you were involved in an accident with a self-driving truck, you may be entitled to compensation for the injuries you sustained in the accident. The truck accident attorneys at Rosen & Ohr Law have the knowledge, skills, and experience to bring a successful claim against the party who caused you harm. 

Our strong work ethic and commitment to our clients have enabled us to obtain millions of dollars in verdicts settlements for clients injured in truck accidents. Call our attorneys now to schedule your free consultation. You can also contact us online via email or online chat. You will not owe us any attorneys’ fees unless we recover money for you.