The future is officially here. Elon Musk’s Tesla company has developed a rig that can travel 500 miles on just one single charge. The announcement is a follow-up to Tesla’s difficulties in developing Tesla 3, which was intended to be a mass-market electric sedan. Musk’s bold claims have the industry talking about the future of trucking and the safety of these semi-trucks.
Musk makes quite a few claims about the new vehicles, including:
- The ride is so smooth that truck drivers will feel like they are driving a racecar.
- The computer display panels make it so easy to operate that non-truck drivers can drive it smoothly.
- The new truck does not produce any emissions, which makes it environmentally friendly.
- The newly designed big rigs perform as well or better than a diesel engine, at a much better price than current rigs.
- The trucks can go 500 miles on just one battery charge, and travel 60 mph during that trip. Musk claims that since the average semi-rig trip is less than 250 miles, a truck should be able to make two trips on a single charge.
- The trucks can charge during a driver’s 30-minute break or while the inventory is being unloaded.
- The trucks will need little maintenance because they do not have transmissions or gears and have four motors. Musk made the bold claim that his company’s new trucks should be able to travel a million miles without breaking down.
- The autopilot standard should improve safety.
Walmart has already announced it will buy fifteen of the new Tesla trucks, and other trucking companies are getting on board as well. However, many in the trucking industry are skeptical about Musk’s ability to deliver on these claims. The failure of the sedan electric model has made potential buyers hesitant to order the new trucks.
Who is liable in a collision with a Tesla truck?
Right now, if you are in a collision with a traditional commercial vehicle, you have a few options for recovering damages: you can make a claim against the manufacturer of the truck (if there is a defective part); you can make a claim against the driver; and/or you can make a claim against the trucking company or employer. When Tracy Morgan was hit by a Wal-Mart truck a few years ago, he sued Wal-Mart. (The driver himself faced criminal charges.)
But if one of these trucks is involved in a collision, whose fault is it? If there is a defect in the truck or its software, then Tesla could be held liable. If the truck is not properly maintained, then it might fall to the companies which buy the trucks. Furthermore, the idea that it is so easy to drive that even a non-CDL licensed driver could handle it is also a bit worrying. You have to pass a specific test to driver a tractor-trailer, and undergo training to learn how to maneuver these giant vehicles on the road. All the touch screens in the world won’t help if the driver doesn’t understand the importance of cargo load weight, or if he or she becomes distracted.
Finally, there is the issue of the autopilot feature. While some people herald driverless vehicles as the safer alternative, we’re not so sure. After all, “Tesla’s ‘Autopilot’ system [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][in its cars] is designed to perform limited tasks…. However, the system is meant to augment, not replace the driver. The vehicle’s human driver and his overreliance on the system were at fault [for a crash in 2016], the NTSB concluded,” per the Washington Post. If a truck driver feels he or she doesn’t need to pay as close attention, because the autopilot is in control, there could be more accidents, not fewer – and then the battle begins as to who will be held accountable for the injuries you sustained.
It’s not that Tesla’s invention isn’t extraordinary, or that we oppose driverless vehicles in theory; we just want to make sure the laws are equipped to handle these new types of claims. Legal battles over who is liable just stretch out the amount of time it takes for an injury victim to receive his or her compensation – time that he or she might not have. Our first priority is always to those who need it, no matter what happens.
At Crandall & Pera Law, our Kentucky truck accident lawyers are committed to helping victims of truck driving accidents and the families of deceased victims get justice. We will hold manufacturers liable if their trucks are defective and have caused physical and emotional harm. Please call us at 877-686-8879 or use our contact form to review your case with our experienced attorneys.