Last week was the 2016 Autonomous Vehicle Symposium in San Francisco where a host of companies attended and gave presentations about their newly developing autonomous vehicle or self-driving technology. One of the companies that presented at the Symposium was a trucking company called Peloton. Peloton makes technology that connects semi-trucks together while driving on the highway in a convoy, and allows the driver of the front truck to control the speed and the braking of all of the following semi-trucks. The result is that the trucks follow closely together, essentially tail-gating or drafting each other to achieve efficiency. The stated goal and benefit of the technology is to save fuel; Peloton said their technology will improve efficiency by up to ten percent per vehicle. Which is great.
Hopefully, as Peloton also claimed during their presentation, the technology is safe. But, as with all other autonomous vehicle technology, Peloton’s system is driven by computers. And as we all know, computers sometimes have glitches. And bugs. Especially when the tech is new and in beta testing.
When a computer glitches and crashes in your office, it can be frustrating. Even maddening. But when it happens on the highway, with a semi-truck driving in a convoy at 70 miles per hour, it could be deadly.
Peloton announced during their presentation in San Francisco that their technology has already been approved for beta testing in a number of states, including Florida. I was unaware of this, as I expect are most other consumer advocates and members of the public.
Hopefully Peloton’s systems never fail. Hopefully no one is hurt while these and other new systems are rolled out and beta tested. But like with the fatal crash in Florida that was widely reported a few weeks ago involving a Tesla self driving car, it’s certainly possible that there will be problems especially during the tech’s early phases.
Point is, consumer advocates need to be aware that this technology is, right now, being beta tested live on public highways, at highway speeds. So if you, as an attorney or consumer advocate are involved in helping a client who was injured or killed in a crash involving a commercial truck, be aware that this new technology exists. Ask the question as to whether this or other similar systems may have contributed to a particular accident. Preserve the evidence of the truck regardless of how damaged or destroyed it might be so your forensic experts can thoroughly document what happened and whether autonomous vehicle technology may have played a role in the incident.
Meanwhile, check back here. We’ll follow this issue as well as other developing issues pertaining to autonomous vehicles, including regulations that are expected to come out before the end of the summer for autonomous vehicles, and the development of new legislation and litigation surrounding this new technology.