GovTech.com bulleted these three interesting facts about driverless car accidents.

  • Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) got into more crashes overall: 9.1 crashes per million miles driven, compared with 4.1 crashes per million miles for conventional vehicles.
  • AVs had a higher rate of injury per crash: 0.36 injuries per crash, compared with 0.25 for conventional vehicles.

But here’s the kicker

  • AVs weren’t responsible for any of the crashes they were involved in.

Let’s repeat that last point

Driverless cars have a higher percentage of accidents than human controlled vehicles, but none of the accidents have been the fault of the AV (automated vehicle). How is that possible? Because AV’s follow algorithms, not instincts. The majority of the crashes have been minor rear end bumps when the AV slowed for traffic or stop lights. Human instinct may be to hurry and beat the light. The AV is programmed to follow traffic laws. Period. A human may speed up past the posted speed limit to pass a vehicle. An AV will stay within the posted limit. A human may close in on a vehicle in front of them to avoid congestion. An AV will maintain its programmed safe distance. The AV may seem unpredictable to humans.

OK, AV cars we kinda get, but AV tractor trailers?

There will come a time where a large number of AV cars will travel the roads of America. But that time may be longer away for transport trucking. There is more to being a truck driver than driving a truck. There is load management, customer service, and quality control to consider. Some aspects of itinerary may need the human touch such as understanding construction and traffic flow. And this may be reactionary, but I for one am not ready to turn over the control of a 40,000-pound class 8 truck to automation. There are road hazards and decisions best left to humans. Besides, there is a viable alternative to AV trucking.

Platooning

“You’re heading home after a hard day’s work. Traffic is heavy, it usually is during rush hour, but at least it’s moving. Six lanes of cars, SUV’s, and motorcycles all heading west at 60 MPH, and right down the middle—one lane of truck trains. One driver in the lead truck with several trailers linked electronically. It’s called platooning. Sound like a futurescape or something from a science fiction movie? Think again, Volvo has been platooning trucks and cars in Europe since 2009” — A Train of Trailers in the Center Lane

Platooning will save fuel, improve safety, and relieve the driver shortage. And at the same time put a human in charge of decisions that affect safety, customers, and delivery.

Is it time for driverless trucks?

I don’t think the time has come for class 8 trucks to be streaking down our highways and byways. That time may come, but for now, there’s no need when platooning can accomplish everything a driverless truck could do and more. What are your thoughts? Is the good ole US of A ready for driverless big rigs? Are you?