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Why Are Driverless Rigs Coming to South Florida?

Law Offices of McCullough & Leboff, P.A. Jan. 1, 2020

The truck driving industry has long been plagued with high turnover rates and a reputation as a harsh field to work in. Truck drivers are often on the road for weeks at a time, and after so long, it’s only natural that they become fatigued. The problem is that fatigued driving can be just as dangerous as an intoxicated driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Reactions become delayed, and drivers become less alert to the other motorists around them when they’re in this tired state.

To combat this growing threat of unsafe roads, Florida lawmakers have approved the implementation of driverless semi-trucks on Florida highways.

Will Driverless Semi-Trucks Be Hitting Florida Roads Soon?

Florida lawmakers championed this new law, which replaced an older one requiring a human driver to be present in autonomous vehicles. Lawmakers decided to push for driverless rigs because of the potential that they could avoid mistakes caused by human error. They reasoned that this law would ultimately make the roads safer for Florida drivers.

In order for companies to operate driverless semi-trucks in Florida, they’ll need to abide by federal regulations and keep up the minimum Florida insurance requirements. State Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, fought for this insurance requirement and for the owners of these autonomous vessels to be held responsible when the trucks fail to operate as they should.

The company behind these driverless rigs is the San Francisco-based startup Starsky Robotics. Starsky is testing its autonomous driving systems for release on both Florida and Texas highways. These trucks will not, however, be driven solely through artificial intelligence. Instead, Starsky is seeking to employ drivers who can pilot the semis remotely.

In Florida, these drivers will be headquartered in Jacksonville. Starsky reportedly has three trucks capable of autonomous operations but is expected to increase that to as many as 25 by the end of this year.

What Are the Benefits of Driverless Rigs on South Florida Highways?

Driverless rigs on South Florida highways are intended to make roads safer for all drivers. According to Starsky CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher, about 100 people die each day on the road due to vehicular accidents. The intent behind these autonomous vehicles is to decrease these fatalities.

Truck drivers have a dangerous job as they spend hours each day behind the wheel on highways. Typically, a truck driver doesn’t go longer than five years before being involved in an auto accident. These driverless systems should decrease the number of hours that truck drivers must be on the road – since the long hauls will eventually be operated as autonomous rigs. The added benefit to the truck driving industry is the additional time that truck drivers will get to spend with their families.

What Risks Do Driverless Rigs Pose on South Florida Highways?

The risk posed by driverless rigs on South Florida highways is that the technology is still new. While it’s considered a superior technology, it’s not clear if the technology can always prevent an accident from happening. What’s particularly unsettling is that passenger vehicle drivers have no way of knowing when a truck is being operated autonomously. Despite Cruz’s efforts, there’s no requirement for driverless semi-trucks to warn other drivers on the road that the vehicle is being driven autonomously.

Companies with driverless semi-trucks will not need to pass any state inspection or certification before operating in Florida. The only requirement is that federal regulations are followed and that the semi-trucks are covered under insurance. Without additional checks and balances on this new technology, many South Florida drivers will still be wary of these driverless rigs.

Experienced Truck Accident Attorneys in Fort Lauderdale

The driverless technology is still too new for us to know whether it will ultimately benefit or endanger road conditions on South Florida highways. Florida lawmakers believe it will help.

One thing you can count on is the attorneys of McCullough & Leboff P.A. to be there, ready to fight for your rights and for the compensation you deserve if you’re ever involved in an auto accident. With more than 48 years of experience, they will negotiate the maximum settlement for your accident. Contact their office to schedule a free consultation today.