Three autonomous trucking companies, Kodiak Robotics, Aurora Innovations, and Gatik.AI, have left California and headed to Texas for their vehicle testing. This decision was primarily influenced by Texas lawmakers approving a legal pathway for autonomous trucks in 2017. Unlike California, where regulations for initial trials have not been set, Texas has embraced the technology and even established a task force to collaborate with operators to address operational issues.
With the regulation of autonomous vehicles being determined at the state level, Texas has become an attractive option due to its favorable environment for testing. Several other states also allow driverless trucks, but Texas has been particularly welcoming. The move has raised questions about the future of proposed laws in California and has sparked opposition from unions concerned about job losses. Meanwhile, proponents of autonomous trucks argue that the technology can address the ongoing trucker shortage, especially for long-haul routes.
One of the key concerns surrounding autonomous trucks is safety. Critics argue that software and sensors lack the ability to react intuitively in unexpected situations and cannot interpret the body language of other drivers on the road. Mike Di Bene, a Teamster with decades of driving experience, emphasizes the importance of safety, stating that unmanned vehicles pose risks to the families who share the highways.
According to Bloomberg, autonomous trucks being tested in Texas have encountered fewer incidents compared to autonomous cars in California. This can be attributed to the less congested and mostly flat highways in Texas, along with favorable weather conditions for visibility. However, the industry recognizes that achieving flawless autonomous systems is crucial. Insurers may be hesitant to offer coverage unless they are confident in the technology’s safety, as they aim to avoid costly settlements.