PUBLICATION NOTICE – Estate of Dereje Kebede Kume, Case No. 599195
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KNR Legal Blog
While there has been a great deal of speculation and enthusiasm surrounding self-driving cars, automated big-rig trucks may also become a possibility. Otto, a start-up company made up of several former Google engineers and executives, is hoping to make self-driving 18-wheelers a reality sooner rather than later. Uber purchased the company in August 2016 for $680 million with hopes of taking advantage of the significant financial and regulatory incentives to automate commercial 18-wheelers.
Many believe that autonomous driving systems have the ability to make a significant and immediate impact in the trucking industry. It could reduce labor costs given that a third of the expenses in the $700 billion trucking industry goes to drivers’ wages. Autonomous, self-driving driving trucks would also increase productivity because trucks could run for a longer period of time without having to stop so the driver can rest or sleep.
Otto is attempting to retro-fit long-haul commercial trucks with self-driving technology that would be utilized primarily on highways. The technology involves the use of motion sensors, cameras, laser lights and computer software to automate driving decisions. The goal is to have the automated driving technology take over at some point so the long-haul truck driver could sleep or nap in the back.
Otto has already begun open-road testing on Volvo trucks equipped with the automated technology in California, and it will be deploying another half-dozen Volvo cabs across several states in the coming weeks. Though the aim of automated driving technology is to reduce the likelihood of crashes, enhance safety, and increase productivity, the idea of a driverless 18-wheeler is unnerving to most drivers. Two high-profile crashes involving Tesla’s autopilot system highlight the need for rigorous testing and greater government oversight of self-driving technology.
On September 20, 2016, the Department of Transportation released the first federal guidelines for automated driving systems. The guidelines include a 15-point safety standard for the design, manufacture, testing, and deployment of autonomous vehicles. The comprehensive guidelines also address how regulations can be applied to driverless vehicles and calls on states to develop uniform policies regarding autonomous vehicles.
Ohio has yet to develop regulations applying to self-driving vehicles, but the Ohio Turnpike may soon be approved as a testing site for autonomous cars and trucks. The testing, which could begin before the end of the year, would take place on the 241-mile stretch of highway along Interstate Route 80. Columbus, which won a $40 million federal award earlier this year as part of the Smart City challenge, will test autonomous trucks at Ohio State University before eventually introducing them on public roads.
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