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The future of autonomous trucks

The American Transportation Research Institute has released a report that details the progress of self-driving trucks. At some point in the future many trucks on highways in Oklahoma and around the country may be piloted by autonomous software technology.

The ATRI report noted that the technology will result in some significant changes to the trucking industry, with widespread implications. However, it stated that truck drivers shouldn't be concerned about their jobs, as a human presence will still be required in the cab for a variety of reasons, including taking over in the event of a software glitch.

Autonomous trucks have demonstrated in tests that they may be much safer and more reliable on the road than human drivers ever could be. As computers operate entirely without the twin dangers of driver fatigue and driver distraction, autonomous trucking holds the possibility of dramatic reductions in both the severity and the frequency of truck accidents.

There could be an impact on some existing federal trucking rules and regulations. As an example, existing hours-of-service and rest rules could be eased due to the fact that drivers would be able to rest in the cab while the software was piloting the truck. Highway infrastructure would have to be significantly upgraded, as there will be a need for communication between road surfaces and the self-driving software.

If self-driving technology can cut down on the number of accidents caused by drowsy truck drivers, that will be a welcome result. Far too many collisions are attributable to sleep-deprived truck drivers, and their employers are often held financially responsible in personal injury lawsuits filed by injured victims with the assistance of their attorneys.

Source: Overdrive Online, "Autonomous trucks pave way for hours reform and more, but major roadblocks remain, says ATRI", James Jaillet, Nov. 17, 2016

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