Three autonomous trucking companies, Kodiak Robotics, Aurora Innovations, and Gatik.AI, have relocated from California to Texas for testing their self-driving vehicles. This shift was triggered by Texas lawmakers approving a legal framework for autonomous trucks in 2017, unlike California, where regulations for initial trials are not yet established. Texas has embraced the technology and even established a task force to collaborate with operators on issues such as roadside inspections and police response in the absence of a driver.
While some lawmakers in California view this shift as a restrictive approach to regulating the innovative autonomous vehicle industry originating from California, opposition to driverless trucks is growing in the state. Unions are concerned about job losses, while advocates argue that autonomous trucks can alleviate the long-standing shortage of truck drivers, particularly for long-haul routes.
However, safety remains a paramount concern. Critics argue that software and sensors lack the intuitive instincts of human drivers and cannot interpret nonverbal cues or make split-second decisions in unpredictable situations. They believe that autonomous trucks pose a risk to the safety of other road users.
According to federal data, autonomous trucks being tested in Texas have encountered fewer incidents compared to conventional trucks in California. This can be attributed to the less congested highways, favorable weather conditions, and flat terrain in Texas. In contrast, California’s busy city streets present unique challenges for autonomous vehicle testing.
The success of autonomous trucking in Texas depends on the flawless operation of the technology. Insurers are likely to demand flawless performance before providing coverage, as they seek to avoid costly settlements arising from accidents involving autonomous trucks. Therefore, industry stakeholders are striving to develop systems that surpass the safety standards of human-operated vehicles.