Kodiak Robotics driverless trucks are set to hit local highways this year, operating routes between Houston and Dallas without anyone behind the wheel.
Kodiak Fleet of Driverless Trucks Will Have No Human Drivers
Kodiak, a California-based company that manufactures highly autonomous or “self-driving” semis, has just opened a Houston truckport at the Ryder maintenance facility at 888 East Airtex Drive. Its fleet already operates routes between Houston and Dallas and Houston and Oklahoma City — albeit with living, breathing safety drivers on board to help in case of emergencies or issues with technology and equipment.
As the company scales in Texas, it plans to remove safety drivers altogether by the end of the year, per the Houston Chronicle.
Harris County highways saw more than 6,200 large truck accidents in 2022 alone. So how is it possible we are adding trucks with no drivers to the equation? Because in Texas it’s legal for driverless trucking companies to decide when they don’t need a human behind the wheel anymore. Yes, really.
Autonomous Trucking Safety Regulations Fall Short in Texas and U.S.
Autonomous trucks are only regulated at the state level, and Texas does not require any driverless trucks or 18-wheelers to have a safety driver on board at all.
Though the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) have been considering federal safety measures since at least 2019, a comprehensive regulatory framework for trucks and other commercial motor vehicles equipped with automated driving systems (ADS) has failed to materialize.
This is especially disconcerting when it comes to highly or fully automated 18-wheelers — those classified by the NHTSA as Level 4 or Level 5, meaning the system itself is fully responsible for driving tasks — especially since driverless technology has only advanced as federal regulations have stalled.
Over the last two years, trucking companies like Kodiak have proliferated in Texas, where ADS-equipped trucks take to our highways every day to test their equipment without oversight.
Safety an Ongoing Concern Over Driverless Trucks
Because distraction, fatigue, speeding, and impairment are among the main causes of truck accidents, proponents of autonomous trucking believe that driverless big rigs may reduce crashes by eliminating the potential for human error.
However, there is no proof that driverless trucks are safer in any way than those operated by a professional carrying a CDL and years of experience on the road. Although self-driving trucks haven’t caused any fatal accidents in the United States, semi-autonomous cars have been implicated in at least four deaths over the past few years.
And though driverless trucking companies contend they will deliver cargo faster and more efficiently while working around Hours of Service rules and the historic truck driver shortage still plaguing the transportation industry, nobody knows what will happen when these trucks take to our nation’s highways at scale.
What we do know is that there were nearly 6,000 truck accident fatalities in the nation last year, according to early estimates from the NHTSA. And we cannot afford any more preventable truck accidents on our roads.
How Would a Driverless Truck Impact a Texas Truck Accident Lawsuit?
Getting hit by a truck is a terrifying, life-altering event. When that truck has no driver, this can have major implications on how the accident unfolds, as well as the future of your recovery, especially if you decide to hold the responsible parties accountable for causing you harm.
Even if a safety driver is on board the truck, studies have suggested that individuals are less likely to do something in a moment of crisis if they aren’t the ones driving the vehicle — meaning they may be fully checked out in the moments before an accident occurs and unable to do anything to prevent it from happening.
Suing the truck driver is commonplace in a truck accident lawsuit, but when nobody is behind the wheel, who you are able to hold accountable will most likely change. Your claim may be against:
- The truck manufacturer
- The developer of driverless technology
- Safety driver (if one was in the vehicle at time of crash) or remote assistant
- Any third parties or contractors involved
Gathering evidence may also become more complex. With no truck driver to provide their side of the story, data and equipment will play an increasingly important role in showing what happened and proving who was at fault. And trucking companies will do all they can to keep that important information from getting out.
Only an experienced truck accident attorney with expertise using evidence from the scene along with data from the black box and electronic logging device will be able to gather all the information quickly and use it to show a jury precisely what happened, how it could have been prevented, and to secure the full compensation you deserve for your damages.
Undefeated Houston Truck Accident Lawyers: Call 1-888-603-3636
Our team of Houston Truck and 18-Wheeler Attorneys continue to monitor the driverless truck industry’s soft launch on our local roads and highways.
If you or a loved one were injured in a truck accident, contact our Houston Truck Accident Lawyers for a free consultation today.
As we’ve repeatedly demonstrated in courts across Texas and the United States, we don’t just win for our clients – we set records.