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Advancing automation raises concerns at safety meeting

With the continued development of highly automated commercial driver-assistance systems, issues that could potentially impact West Virginia motorists are on the table. At the annual Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance workshop held on April 24, an industry official acknowledged that technological advancements could lead to enhanced road safety. However, she also implied that regulations are needed to ensure that the appropriate safety standards are in place.

During the listening session, participants touched on several issues related to the push to bring autonomous trucks to the marketplace. Information ranging from the design and development to the testing and deployment of highly automated commercial motor vehicles was presented to a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration government panel. In relation to autonomous motor vehicle technology, industry stakeholders discussed the potential need for reform concerning hours of service. They also emphasized the continued need for the manned control of semi-trucks.

One Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association board member presented comments in support of such driver control. Operators may be called upon to make sudden safety decisions at any time when behind the wheel, and there is concern regarding how automated technology might respond in some life-and-death situations. One Washington State Patrol official agreed, indicating that the importance of having a person in the driver's seat should not be minimized.

If automated systems do eventually replace commercial truck drivers, new questions may be raised regarding liability. West Virginia residents who are injured in a truck accident under such circumstances may be entitled to justice in the form of damages. In some situations, a personal injury attorney could establish liability on the part of all responsible parties. Dependent upon the facts of the case, the owner of the vehicle, its operator, the equipment manufacturer and the developer of any technology in use could potentially be accountable for any resultant harm.

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