The State of Self-Driving Trucks in California
Recently, the concept of self-driving cars has gone from being a thing of science fiction to a stark reality. Companies such as Google, Tesla, and Uber have all experimented with self-driving vehicles, with a wide range of successes and failures. We all remember the fatal accident in 2018 when a Tesla crashed into the center divider while in auto-pilot mode and killed its driver.
Despite this tragic event and a few others, self-driving vehicles are still being tested on California roads and have even expanded into the trucking industry.
Are Self-Driving Trucks Allowed on California Roads?
California issued legislation in 2012 that outlined the requirements for self-driving vehicles within the state, housed under the California Self-Driving Vehicle Law. It wasn’t until 2014, however, that the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) began allowing manufacturers to test self-driving vehicles on California roads through the Autonomous Vehicle Driverless Tester Program. In addition, there was a major shift in 2018.
From 2014 to 2017, manufacturers could only test these vehicles on public roads if a human was in the driver’s seat and could take control from the vehicle’s auto-pilot system to prevent a serious accident. Come 2018, the DMV expanded this program to allow manufacturers to test self-driving vehicles without drivers, a massive shift in prior testing procedures.
For a manufacturer to test its vehicles, the manufacturer must first petition the DMV for a permit. According to the DMV, there were 58 permit holders in California as of November 30, 2020, and only five of these companies are allowed to operate self-driving vehicles without drivers. Altogether, these permit holders include major tech companies like Apple, Uber, and Lyft, which are all testing driverless passenger vehicles, as well as WAYMO LLC, a subsidiary of Google that tests self-driving trucks.
Currently, driverless vehicles can only be operated for testing purposes and are not available for commercial use. Manufacturers are also required to pay annual fees, notify local authorities where their vehicles are being tested, report all accidents within 10 days, and show proof of driver training and other certifications. With regard to insurance, manufacturers must submit proof of insurance, a surety bond, or self-insure the vehicles with a minimum liability policy of $5 million.
How Safe Are Self-Driving Trucks?
Overall, the rollout of self-driving vehicles has been slow, even in a tech-heavy and innovative state like California. Given that only 58 companies are allowed to operate self-driving vehicles and testing procedures are still very strict, statistics on self-driving vehicle accidents are sparse, especially for trucks. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 94% of all auto accidents are due to human error. Inventors argue that automated vehicles can eliminate these errors and reduce accidents drastically, but this remains to be seen. In the interim, many are worried that these tests will put more people in danger until these vehicles’ safety systems are perfected.
If you are injured by a self-driving vehicle, it is important for you to remember your right to file a personal injury claim for compensation. The owners of these vehicles, which are currently only major corporations, can be found liable if their vehicles cause an accident. In addition, if the vehicle in question had a driver within it who could have taken control to avoid the accident but failed to do so, they can also be considered liable for your injuries.
Sorting through liability after any auto accident can be difficult – try doing it with billion-dollar tech giants involved. This is why you should trust your case to a California truck accident lawyer at The Law Firm of Joseph H. Low IV. With the aid of an experienced trial attorney, your claim will be handled with due diligence and professionalism. Our firm has represented numerous clients who were injured by negligent truck drivers and trucking companies and has secured full compensation for their trauma. Let us do the same for you. Call our firm at (562) 901-0840 or toll-free (888) 454-5569 to discuss your truck accident claim today.