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Are Autonomous Vehicles the Answer?

Jul 6th, 2018 | By | Category: Geri Roskopf's Blog

Along with the trucking industry, the towing and recovery industry is well aware of the shortage of qualified drivers. At the Wisconsin Towing Association’s annual meeting in June, the subject of autonomous vehicles was a hot topic.  Are driverless trucks the answer to the shortage? And along with that, who takes liability if the vehicle is involved in an accident? What kind of insurance is needed? So many unanswered questions.

China is already testing driverless trucks to transport their freight. While they believe higher requirements in technology need to be fine-tuned, they also believe driverless trucks will be on the roadways much faster than driverless passenger vehicles. One article I read indicted that China will have driverless trucks up and running by 2020.

Testing is also being done in the United States. One advantage the trucking industry has with regard to using driverless trucks is that many truck delivery routes are fixed routes. Foxconn, a multinational electronics contract manufacturing company, is in the process of building a huge factory in southern Wisconsin. There have been many discussions on how the company will impact Wisconsin’s economy and workforce. But with the company moving forward, it seems likely a special route for freight trucks will be built exclusively for this company, and along with that will be autonomous vehicles to transport their products.

Some of the concerns Wisconsin towers have — along with the trucking industry I’m sure — are liability, traffic enforcement and safety. Because everything associated with autonomous vehicles is just in the testing stage, I really don’t believe there is any legal framework in place as to who would be responsible in an accident. Would it be the owner/operator of the vehicle, the manufacturer, computer programmers, computer companies or mapping companies?

With so much new technology being created every day, we’re living in exciting times, and while driverless vehicles will probably be the norm in the future, right now it seems to me like something straight out of a sci-fi movie.