Texas Highways are the Test Grounds for Driverless 18-Wheelers

While the driverless car phenomenon continues to gain traction across the nation with innovative cars like Tesla, these same technologies are now being tested for use in the commercial transportation industry. The growing strains on the transportation industry and supply-chain shortages exacerbated by the COVID pandemic have trucking industries looking to automated and driverless software for possible solutions. Texas highways – particularly the stretch of I-45 between Houston and Dallas – have become one of the main testing grounds for driverless commercial vehicles over the past year.

Texas has led the way for companies in the commercial industry to begin utilizing the driverless trend with favorable regulations and legislature allowing driverless vehicles to drive in the state, even without a driver present. The U.S. Department of Transportation designated the entire state as one of 10 proving grounds for autonomous vehicle testing – and the stretch of I-45 between Houston and Dallas’s stable weather conditions, relatively flat and direct highway, and the amount of freight transported between these two mega-cities, has proven to be an ideal choice. Since late 2020, 18-wheelers in Texas have been driving themselves from pick-up destinations to shipping warehouses with automated software, sometimes covering hundreds of miles along away and often without any intervention from a human driver.

For now, the driverless software is tested with “safety drivers” riding along to intervene in the automated trips if necessary – like in the event of a tire blowout or software glitch. But some of the automated technology is designed with capabilities for entire trips with or without a human being present. Industry leaders, like the software company partnered with FedEx, have even declared their goal to have automated trucks driving on public roads without a safety driver by the end of 2023.

Given the danger that 18-wheelers and big rig trucks present to drivers on the road, this growing trend creates an alarming fear for many. However, proponents of the industry claim the software can process more information than a human driver and make faster decisions while driving. The idea of these massive machines traveling on automated software at highway speeds leaves many still skeptical of the safety of this growing trend, especially for those traveling along I-45 from Houston to Dallas.  

If you or someone you know has been injured as the result of an accident involving a driverless vehicle, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling 713-222-7211 or toll-free at 1‑800-870-9584.