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Self-driving commercial trucks could become the norm

If you think sleepy and distracted truck drivers are a problem, some computer engineers and automobile designers think they may have the solution: automated trucks that drive themselves. In fact, since last October, autonomously driven trucks have been delivering Frigidaire refrigerators along the I-10 freeway from Texas to California.

This issue certainly begs the question of whether such a large vehicle is safe when a computer is behind the wheel. Some experts believe that the vehicles are safer than human-driven trucks, but others disagree.

Are autonomously driven trucks safer?

The autonomous trucks that currently transport these refrigerators 650 miles from El Paso to Palm Springs are not completely human-free because they still have a human chaperone. The idea, however, is to eventually do away with the human and let the trucks make the journey all by themselves.

According to the CEO of Embark, the transportation startup that handles the driverless refrigerator delivery project, this is the first time someone has done something like this successfully. According to Embark, driverless semitrucks are the best way to use autonomous technology.

One of the reasons why autonomous driving enthusiasts believe that semitrucks are the way to go is because interstate driving is about as predictable as driving can be. For one, cyclists, pedestrians, traffic lights and other difficult-to-navigate obstacles will almost always not be found on an interstate. All the big rig has to do is stay in its lane and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles. Even more impressive is the fact that a driverless semitruck won't get drowsy, won't be texting and driving and can continue driving 24 hours a day, seven days a week without taking a single break.

Who is liable for a driverless semitruck crash?

In the event that a driverless big rig gets into a semitruck crash, it will certainly bring up liability questions and concerns. It's likely that the transportation company that owns and maintains the semi will be liable for a crash that the semitruck causes. It's also possible that the manufacturer of the semitruck will be liable, but it's difficult to know for sure until such a legal matter appears in court.

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