Embark Is Making Great Strides Toward Autonomous Driving
Self-driving trucks are no longer a dream for the future. An Embark truck recently completed a 650-mile trip from El Paso, Texas, to Ontario, California in October of last year. Though it is hardly the first of its kind, this voyage marks the “longest commercial use of self-driving trucking technology to date.”
The Embark truck is a Level 2 automation. This means that the truck can accelerate, decelerate and steer on its own. However, there must also be a driver present at all times in the unlikely event that the truck malfunctions. If this should occur, the driver is on hand to take over control of the vehicle.
The trip was successful. Over the course of the 650-mile trip, there was a 300-mile stretch in which the truck drove completely independently from its driver. That means that for roughly half the trip, the only time the driver needed to operate the vehicle was during a mandatory port of entry stop. The truck was in control for the majority of the remaining trip as well.
There is hope that these self-driving trucks will ease the strain that many drivers in the industry are facing. At the moment, there aren’t enough drivers to meet the overwhelming needs of the industry, meaning that each driver is pulling more than his or her own weight, and that problem is only going to get worse. “Trucking is facing a workforce problem,” said Embark’s chief executive, Alex Rodrigues, “More than 50 percent of all drivers will retire in the next two decades, and there aren't nearly enough young drivers joining the industry to replace them.”
More research is needed
The trucking industry is problematic for many reasons. As we have discussed before, drivers are often forced to work exhausting hours with very little downtime between jobs to keep up with the high demands of the industry. Measures like automated driving systems are likely to prove beneficial to the drivers. However, self-driving trucks still need more research before they are ready to be on the road without any driver behind the wheel. Already, automated vehicles have been involved in serious crashes, in one case yielding fatal results.
Spokane truck accident lawyer Richard E. Lewis has seen what can happen when an exhausted driver is forced to get behind the wheel of another truck, or drive under conditions with which they are not comfortable. If you or a loved one have been injured by a truck driver, call Richard E. Lewis today.