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Will Driverless Trucks Improve Safety?

Late in 2016, the first driverless commercial-truck – carrying 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer – tooled down Colorado’s Interstate 25.1 What could go wrong? In fact, this rollout was the brainchild of Otto – a startup autonomous-truck business recently purchased by Uber2 – and it was heralded with fanfare worthy of a prominent visiting dignitary.

Baby Steps

Although this was the first official driverless commercial truck route, it’s important to get the facts straight:

  • The drive took place in the wee hours of the morning;
  • A human driver piloted the truck from corporate to the Colorado highway (after which he took a seat in the back of the cab) and to its final destination off of the highway;
  • Tow trucks preceded the driverless route to ensure that no vehicles were parked on the highway’s shoulder; and
  • The driverless-semi was surrounded by Colorado state patrol cars – one of which held the executive director of Colorado’s Department of Transportation – and three Otto vehicles.

This test drive was not business as usual.

Getting Colorado Onboard

Colorado had reservations about allowing this trial run, but was able to overcome its reticence when Otto provided proof that its autonomous truck – with a driver behind the wheel who never needed to intervene – had repeatedly navigated the route successfully. The state found this exercise in driverless commercial trucking transformative, and they proposed that the most important outcome of this experiment was the emergent technology that could lead to improved travel safety, including fewer fatal accidents.

What’s Next?

Self-driving commercial trucks, though seemingly promising, have a long way to travel before any true consensus can be drawn. Some experts focus their concern on the potential for mass unemployment for commercial drivers while others worry about the ultimate safety of the movement. Can a robotic system ever replicate the reasoning and expertise of human experience? That’s a tough question.

Universal Truths

No matter how this quandary plays out, big rigs remain an ongoing safety threat for other drivers on the road. It’s hard to imagine a situation in which the danger they necessarily represent could ever be completely eliminated – no matter how refined driverless trucking may become. If you share the road with commercial tractor trailers, you are at risk. Familiarize yourself with the rules of defensive driving and do not, under any circumstances, let your guard down – your life may depend on it.

If you or someone you care about has been involved in a commercial truck collision, seek immediate medical attention and then retain expert legal counsel.

If You’ve Been Injured in a Semi Accident, Contact an Experienced Minnesota Truck Crash Attorney Today


Any accident involving a commercial truck is certain to be terrifying. Help is available. An experienced truck crash lawyer who is skilled in thorough accident investigations can help you recover the compensation that you deserve. To schedule a free consultation with a Minnesota truck accident lawyer, call McEwen & Kestner, PLLC today at 800-732-3070 or contact us online.

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