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Autonomous trucks raising more crash liability questions

The sheer volume of technology advances happening these days can make it seem as if they are coming at breakneck speed. They are coming fast compared to the speed of new innovations in the past, but often they are occurring at a much slower pace than we know because we can't keep our eyes on all the developments at once.

That seems to be the case with autonomous vehicles. Earlier this month we posed the question "Who's liable in a self-driving car is in a crash?" The concern over the subject seemed to appear almost out of nowhere when news broke that some self-driving cars being under development and testing have been involved in nearly a dozen accidents in the past few years.

This was probably a shock for many who didn't know how far we've come toward self-driving vehicles. Despite the crashes proponents of autonomous vehicles tout that computer-controlled vehicles will reduce injuries and fatalities due to crashes.

And now comes word that Daimler has obtained the first-ever license to operate a self-driving semitrailer truck. It's something that authorities in Texas and every other state are watching with interest -- some with a skeptical eye.

It is well understood that tractor-trailer truck accidents are the source of some of the most serious injuries on U.S. highways today. The chances of someone dying in a crash with a truck tend to be higher and the process of obtaining compensation for victims tends to be more complicated.

Driver fatigue is often a key factor in crashes with commercial trucks, and Daimler says the development of self-driving trucks should herald a new era of greater motoring safety. But there is recognition that accidents are going to continue to be a matter of concern. The question of liability remains unanswered in many ways, but developers say it's not an insurmountable issue.

Developers say product liability insurance might be one way of addressing the concerns. And as all the kinks are being worked out worries are being met by requiring that test trucks have a human in the driver's seat, even when the truck is in self-drive mode.

For now, the self-driving truck is only operating on the highways of Nevada. But other states could open routes in the coming years. Should Texas? What do you think?

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