Deep in the Heart of Texas: Autonomous Trucking

13 August 2019 Dashboard Insights Blog
Authors: Jeffrey A. Soble

It is difficult to think of a state with more open roads on which to drive a truck than the state of Texas. In fact, Texas has over 300,000 miles of public roads. The runner up, California, only has 169,703 – a distant second. Not only does Texas have thousands more miles of roads, but the law in Texas allows a company to operate autonomous vehicles. Not so in California, yet. For that reason, Kodiak Robotics announced that it opened a Dallas, TX office to oversee a commercial trucking route. What makes this route special is that the trucks will travel 400 miles roundtrip to/from Houston. They will do it autonomously, as reported by Wired.

Fear not citizens of Texas, you will not be passing a truck with no one in the cab fearing it is a ghost truck. Digging deeper, the trip will not be fully autonomous. Instead, a “safety driver” will be at the wheel just in case something happens. Plus, that “safety driver” will do a lot of the driving: on/off highways, into distributions terminals, etc. Mostly, the trucks will be autonomous on interstates and other highways.

Kodiak Robotics is not the only company running autonomous vehicles in Texas. Loadsmart and Starsky Robotics have already completed a journey. They jointly announced they were able to automatically dispatch an autonomous truck to haul freight. They used Loadsmart to prie, tender and book the vehicle. Then they used Starsky’s self-driving technology to pick up and deliver the freight.

So, there is a start. But to what end? Done to scale, this could make truck freight transportation more efficient. Faster, more immediate, with lower labor costs. Of course, as of 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tallied 1,871,700 heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers with a projection for 2026 of a 6% increase to 1,980,100 drivers. Add to that the number of dispatchers and other people involved and suddenly we are talking about technology that will put a couple million people out of work. Eventually.

That last part might be the key part. Eventually. Maybe. One monitored, partially autonomous trip between Dallas and Houston along with one fully automated dispatch and delivery is a long way from trucks without drivers dominating the nation’s highways. This is especially true when the technology has to account for wind, snow, storms, and other weather. Weather that is rarer in TX than in say Illinois, California or North Dakota. The world of autonomous trucking is inching along in Texas, literally. But how far it advances is still a vast unknown in the automotive industry. Will it arrive? Will my personal jetpack ever arrive?

This blog is made available by Foley & Lardner LLP (“Foley” or “the Firm”) for informational purposes only. It is not meant to convey the Firm’s legal position on behalf of any client, nor is it intended to convey specific legal advice. Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Foley & Lardner LLP, its partners, or its clients. Accordingly, do not act upon this information without seeking counsel from a licensed attorney. This blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Communicating with Foley through this website by email, blog post, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship for any legal matter. Therefore, any communication or material you transmit to Foley through this blog, whether by email, blog post or any other manner, will not be treated as confidential or proprietary. The information on this blog is published “AS IS” and is not guaranteed to be complete, accurate, and or up-to-date. Foley makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation or content of the site. Foley expressly disclaims all other guarantees, warranties, conditions and representations of any kind, either express or implied, whether arising under any statute, law, commercial use or otherwise, including implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Foley or any of its partners, officers, employees, agents or affiliates be liable, directly or indirectly, under any theory of law (contract, tort, negligence or otherwise), to you or anyone else, for any claims, losses or damages, direct, indirect special, incidental, punitive or consequential, resulting from or occasioned by the creation, use of or reliance on this site (including information and other content) or any third party websites or the information, resources or material accessed through any such websites. In some jurisdictions, the contents of this blog may be considered Attorney Advertising. If applicable, please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Photographs are for dramatization purposes only and may include models. Likenesses do not necessarily imply current client, partnership or employee status.

Related Services