The auto industry has been buzzing about self-driving cars since Google started working on the concept in 2009. After seven years, the company is still testing vehicles with the new technology in hopes of making the autonomous cars available to the public by 2020. In the meantime, a start-up company led by former Google employees are looking to change the trucking industry with the addition of self-driving trucks.
Engineers and program developers who had previously worked on Google’s self-driving car project and maps are a major part of the new company, Otto, that just recently completed a route with a self-driving big rig on a Nevada highway. Otto was only founded in January and has already put the technology into place for autonomous trucks. Their idea is not to build a new truck (like Google is doing with self-driving cars), but to modify trucks already on the road. Sensors and cameras, along with customized hardware and software would be installed on the trucks to take over steering, braking and acceleration.
The technology may be controlling the driving functions, but drivers will still be present inside the truck to monitor the trip. Critics are concerned about how this technology will handle the limited maneuverability of trucks when it comes to being able to access and react to a potentially dangerous situation, especially with the long distance it takes to stop. The company feels their technology will actually help decrease the number of accidents since there will be less of a burden on drivers who are known to suffer from fatigue during long stretches of time behind the wheel.
Otto also believes the technology will be financially beneficial for trucking companies, especially for drivers who own their trucks or contract out to other companies. If a driver is able to take a mandated sleep brake while the truck is still able to continue its route, it will cut down on having to spend money on additional personnel and allow the truck to reach its destination faster. The efficient driving expected by the technology is also aimed to save money on fuel and insurance costs.
As for Google, while the company is still in the process of developing and testing self-driving cars, it has not stopped thinking outside the box when it comes to the auto industry. The company recently submitted a unique idea for a patent they feel will cut down on the number of injuries in pedestrian accidents. The concept involves placing a layer of a glue-like substance to the front and hood of a car so when a person is struck, he or she will stick to the car instead of being pushed or thrown to the ground. The so-called human flypaper would only activate and be exposed upon impact.
Technology of all sorts will continue to develop in an effort to make the roads safer for everyone. With almost 10 percent of highway fatalities attributed to trucks (according to data from the Department of Transportation), Otto is hoping its contribution to the trucking industry will have a positive impact on that statistic. Until then, sharing the road with 18-wheelers and tractor-trailers can still be a harrowing experience. Injuries associated with truck accidents are usually severe and sometimes deadly. If you or a loved one has been involved in such an accident, please contact the experienced attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C., today.