What just a few years ago sounded like science fiction is quickly becoming a reality in Virginia and across the United States. Self-driving vehicles are slowly hitting the market for consumers and businesses. These vehicles, which use computers and sensors to avoid obstructions and other vehicles, include the potential of reducing the number truck accidents.
A truck manufacturer and a technology firm have teamed up to create a self-driving truck, and they are testing it in Virginia. The trucks are now driving on Interstate 81 in Virgin. During the testing phase the trips require an engineer who oversees the systems and a certified safety driver with a commercial driver’s license who understands automated systems and vehicle dynamics.
With 65% of goods in the United States delivered by commercial truck, self-driving trucks are something that many truck fleet operators find appealing. In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that over 90% of serious crashes involve human error. It is believed that this number may be reduced by automated vehicles.
Semi-autonomous vehicles have been on the nation’s roads for a few years already. However, there are many unanswered questions about technology. One of these questions involves liability: If a self-driving car causes an accident, and another party is injured, who can be held liable for the injured person’s damages? Will the injured have to sue the manufacturer under the theory of product liability? If the injured has to sue the owner, what legal theory will this lawsuit fall under?
These questions may be especially pressing when they come to the possibility of truck accidents. Because semitrailers are so much larger and heavier than other vehicles, they carry much more force when they collide with cars. The result can easily cause catastrophic injury or death to the occupant of the smaller vehicle.
In a typical truck accident personal injury case, a negligent driver can be held liable, but so too can that driver’s employer. A similar principle may apply in future cases involving self-driving trucks. Personal injury attorneys must follow these developments in order to provide their clients with knowledgeable representation.