Wall Street Journal reports new technologies are being incorporated into commercial motor vehicles, which could reduce the risk of deadly truck accidents. Although safety technologies can be a major benefit to making motorists safer and reducing crash risks caused by human error, technologies are imperfect and malfunctioning is always possible.
No matter what automated systems are installed in trucks, drivers still need to remain alert and focused on the road and in control of the vehicles. If an accident happens, the driver and trucking company may be to blame if they were negligent and relied on technology alone to ensure safety of others on the road.
Automated Systems Aimed at Preventing Truck Crashes
There are multiple new technologies being tested or even being installed in trucks throughout the country designed to make the work truckers do easier. For example, it is now possible to automate truck shifting; to develop vehicles which brake on their own when approaching a slower vehicle; and to show video of blind spots. There are also lane departure warning systems which sound an alert when a truck driver has started to stray into a different lane.
These technologies could eventually lead to the creation of trucks which drive themselves. For now, however, manufacturers are marketing the technologies as tools designed to decrease fuel use, eliminate some of the most tedious aspects of operating a truck, and designed to reduce the risk of motor vehicle collisions as drivers are relieved of tasks they can get tired of on long journeys.
The development of autonomous features for commercial and industrial vehicles is already ahead of the technologies offered on passenger cars. Some military forklifts and mining vehicles, for example, are currently being operated without drivers already. One Canadian heavy-duty trucking company is also using an automated system to steer and do other duties during long trips (although there is still a driver in the car as the system works).
Manufacturers of the technology claim a prototype steering system is able to compensate for windy conditions and for hills, which currently require constant adjustments to steering. The constant adjustments can make a long ride tedious. An engineer for one company developing automated systems in trucks suggests the system can make it possible for truckers to 'sit back and enjoy the ride," which could help to reduce burnout rates in the trucking industry.
Some automated systems have shown promise in reducing crash rates. At one company, 250 trucks equipped with a collision avoidance system reported being involved in only one rear-end collision since late October 2013. Compared with the same period of time, truckers in other vehicles which did not have the collision avoidance system recorded eight rear-end crashes.
Hopefully, technologies will continue to improve and be adopted which bring down other rates of truck accidents and make people safer. However, the move towards collision avoidance technology in commercial trucks has developed rapidly and it will be necessary to determine if it improves safety over the long-haul.