The statistics on truck accidents in the US are staggering. Back in 2012, something like 3,921 people were killed while driving trucks weighing more than 10 tons. And another 104,000 people were injured. What’s more, that number has been rising in recent years, despite improvements in vehicle safety. There was an 18 percent increase in truck deaths between 2011 and 2012 alone.
This all means that driving a truck is one of the most dangerous jobs being done in the US today. You can forget working on an oil rig or working with heavy machinery. Driving a truck surpasses them all regarding the number of deaths. Law firms, like the folks at http://thehartmanlawfirm.com/truck-accidents/, are seeing claimants with debilitating injuries daily.
So what can be done? Well, it looks as if there is hope on the horizon that the number of truck driver deaths can be reduced. It seems as though we may finally get a technology that means that people don’t have to risk their lives just to deliver stock to warehouses.
Back in 2004, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency launched one of its Grand Trials. DARPA saw that computer technology was advancing to the point where driverless vehicles might be possible. They offered a $2 million prize for any team that could build a car that would drive itself along their course.
In the first year of the competition, no cars were successful. All the critics said that self-driving cars were science-fantasy, and it would never happen. But teams kept coming back year after year, learning all the way. Finally, in 2007 a team from Carnegie Mellon School alongside General Motors cracked it. Their car, equipped with a scanning radar and cameras successfully navigated the course and crossed the finish line.
It was an incredible achievement that few believed would be accomplished so quickly. And it has profound implications for road safety.
Now entrepreneurs want to apply the same technology to trucks. We’ve already seen some automation of our vehicles – just look at cruise mode on the Tesla Model S.
Back in May last year the first driverless truck was released on the roads of Nevada. The story was covered in the tech press by online magazines like wired.com. It set off in spectacular fashion heading towards the Hoover Dam. The world’s media had gathered to send it on its way.
Right now autonomous technology is still in its infancy. The truck itself can only drive by itself on highways. It stills needs a human driver to take it around town. But just the fact that the driver doesn’t have to concentrate on those long journeys on the open road means we’ll see a reduction in the number of deaths.
As the technology matures over the next five years, we’re going to see fewer and fewer truck driver deaths. More and more of the role of truck drivers will be given over to machines. And as more of the fleet is upgraded, fewer humans will remain in the loop. Theoretically, that means that truck driver deaths will fall to 10% of their current level. And hopefully more.