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What Are the Legal Implications of Autonomous Trucks in the Age of Self-Driving Vehicles?


St Louis Truck Accident Specialists

What are the legal implications of autonomous trucks in the age of self-driving vehicles? Buchanan Williams & O’Brien in St Louis attorney has more information about this topic. Call us now.

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Self-Driving Trucks and the Law

We live in an ever-changing society. Developments in technology result in accelerating change. Artificial intelligence has affected the pace of technological change. It threatens to increase at a rate never seen before. The future is upon us regarding the automotive industry and autonomous vehicles (AVs). AVs exist already and are being tested and improved upon daily.

Tesla has already designed self-driving trucks capable of driving without the assistance of a human being. They use automated driving systems. Other manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon, and it’s just a matter of time before self-driving AV trucks are widely adopted. What does this mean for us as a society?

Increases in safety and a reduction of accidents once AV technology is fully developed are projected. This will probably result in a greater readiness to accept and adopt these vehicles. The future is with AVs – both trucks and ordinary passenger vehicles.

This will lead to several potential legal implications. One thing is for sure, a lot of legislation and regulation will be passed to deal with the novel issues that AVs bring to society.

Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien in St Louis can assist you in the evolving landscape of the new AV world. We can also help in determining liability in a truck accident regardless of human presence. We pride ourselves on staying abreast of legislation. We are observing the legal landscape to ensure we can competently represent our clients now and in the future.

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Important AV Questions to Consider

Critical issues to consider around automated vehicles and automated trucks include the following:

  • Who is liable in the event of an accident? Are the truck drivers liable even when the truck is driving autonomously?

  • Should the law require a human driver to be behind the steering wheel in an AV?

  • Who is liable in the event of a traffic offense?

  • How does a police officer get an unmanned self-driving truck to pull over?

  • Who is liable for an accident when a human driver is in an automated vehicle?

  • At what point does the manufacturer become liable in the case of a malfunction?

Legislation is required to cover all of these issues and many more. We can expect a lot of regulation around automated driving. Legislation must cover the human operator and connected and automated vehicles. It should also cover the trucking industry and commercial vehicles.

Our law firm currently deals with trucking accidents and personal injury claims. We foresee the laws changing significantly in the short term. This is needed to keep pace with autonomous technology advancements. Both state and federal regulations are constantly evaluating new regulations.

Important AV Questions to Consider

Confused about truck accidents in St Louis? We are here to answer your questions.

State Versus Federal Legislation

The development of automatic vehicles has sparked debates over the appropriate level of legislation, with the division between state and federal laws at the forefront. The regulation of autonomous vehicles in the United States is a complex mix of state-level rules. Some states, such as California, Michigan, and Arizona, have proactively established comprehensive frameworks for testing and operating self-driving cars.

These state regulations often address licensing requirements for autonomous vehicle operators, safety standards, and liability rules. There are now 21 states with legislation authorizing the deployment of autonomous cars. An additional six states have regulations exclusively about semi trucks, and 13 states, plus Washington D.C., are exploring laws on these vehicles.

Of those states with autonomous vehicle laws and related rules on the books, 12 have stipulations on the level of autonomy of the vehicle. For example, in some cases, a licensed driver must be behind the wheel in many states, watching over the autonomy tech.

While state legislation allows for tailored regulations based on local needs, it can also result in inconsistencies and potential obstacles for manufacturers and operators navigating different laws when deploying vehicles across state lines.

Recognizing the need for a unified approach, federal legislation has been proposed to create a streamlined framework for autonomous vehicle regulation. The proposed legislation aims to establish a comprehensive set of rules to provide clarity and guidance for autonomous vehicle development and deployment, encompassing vehicle safety, data privacy, cybersecurity, and liability. By implementing federal legislation, the aim is to harmonize regulations, reduce barriers to innovation, and facilitate the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles on a national scale.

What Are the Insurance Requirements for Autonomous Vehicles?

The insurance requirements for autonomous vehicles are still evolving as the technology and regulatory landscape continue to develop.

Most jurisdictions that enable full deployment have insurance requirements for autonomous vehicles. The car must be covered by vehicle liability that fulfills the state minimums in nine states. Oklahoma requires $1 million, and California and Tennessee demand $5 million in insurance coverage.


Are AVs Safer Than Human-Driven Vehicles?


Proponents of AVs state that eliminating human error will significantly lower the accident rate of all vehicles. They state that 97 percent of accidents are caused by driver error. They also hold that AVs will not be susceptible to challenges such as driver fatigue, driving under the influence, road rage, etc.

Those who argue against the safety of AVs point out that AVs have yet to be tested sufficiently in real-world driving environments. They also argue that nothing can replace the human brain’s capacity to act quickly in times of danger.

Regardless of the debate, as the technology continues to mature, the aim should be to combine human judgment and machine precision that can work harmoniously to enhance overall road safety.

Do You Need Legal Advice Regarding AVs?

If you require legal advice concerning autonomous vehicles, consulting with a qualified attorney who understands this area of law is crucial. The attorneys at Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien have the experience you need as your truck accident attorney. For almost 40 years, Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien has represented Missourians. We are committed to serving clients with civility and respect at all times.

Additionally, if you are looking for a Truck Attorney, contact us for a case evaluation. We can leverage our many years of experience.

We have seen over the years how technology has influenced the industry. We know how the recent advances around automated trucks will change the motoring landscape. With these changes, we foresee wide-ranging legislative enactments on the near horizon. We make sure we stay current so that we can represent our clients. 

If you have any questions about the law surrounding AVs, we can help. Call us today.

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