Autonomous truck systems continue to evolve

A robotics company has developed technology that could allow truck drivers in West Virginia and around the country to operate their vehicles without leaving their offices. Several technology firms are working on autonomous truck systems, and the San Francisco-based startup Starsky Robotics is carving out a niche for itself by focusing on final mile delivery. Navigating a large commercial vehicle to its final destination requires great precision, and the company has developed a kit that allows this delicate work to be performed remotely.

Cameras and radar arrays are placed on the front and sides of tractor-trailers, and drivers in remote locations steer, brake and accelerate using controls similar to those found in a truck cab. During a January testing exercise, a commercial truck driver used the technology to autonomously control a tractor-trailer for 85 percent of a 140 mile trip. The driver involved in the test was on hand in the cab to take care of any emergency situations, but the company hopes to be conducting driverless tests by the end of the year.

Much has been written in recent years about the impact that automation will have on the American job market, and truck drivers are often high on the list of endangered occupations. Driverless cars have already racked up thousands of accident-free miles, but the founder of Starsky Robotics says that the company's mission is to help truck drivers rather than replace them.

Experienced personal injury attorneys will likely support any technology that promises to reduce the number of accidents caused by distracted, drowsy or impaired truck drivers. The data captured by autonomous vehicle technology could also be used by attorneys to determine what occurred in the moments before a collision, and additional information such as wireless usage records and internet activity may be studied when driver distraction seems likely.

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