The last few years have seen remarkable achievements in the area of autonomous -- or self-driving -- automobiles. Indeed, Google's fleet of self-driving cars continue to safely roam the streets of California, while Daimler AG recently rolled out the first-of-its-kind self-driving big rig licensed for use on public roads.
As impressive as this is, it's important to note that neither these nor most other vehicles in development are technically autonomous, as a human being still needs to sit behind the wheel ready to take over in the event of an emergency.
As it turns out, however, the first generation of truly autonomous vehicle will soon be hitting the roads right here in the state of Florida.
What self-driving vehicle is coming to the Sunshine State?
The Florida Department of Transportation has contracted with Pennsylvania-based Royal Truck & Equipment Company to run a pilot program involving autonomous attenuator trucks to be used by construction crews across the state.
What is an attenuator truck?
Attenuator trucks, otherwise known as crash trucks, are the trucks you see out with work crews that are outfitted with both flashing arrows and rolling crash barriers (i.e., truck-mounted attenuators) extending outward from the back of the truck.
These truck-mounted attenuators, which have been around for close to 30 years, are essentially designed to protect highway workers from inattentive or dangerous drivers in work zones. Indeed, one study credited them with having reduced the number of injuries and fatalities in work zones by 50 percent.
Why are they testing self-driving technology on attenuator trucks?
While truck-mounted attenuators protect workers and motorists, the fact remains that the person sitting behind its wheel is still at risk in the event of a crash. By completely automating the truck -- which is operated remotely by a worker at the front of the convoy -- it effectively expands the zone of protection.
When will these autonomous attenuator trucks be on the road?
Reports indicate that they should be in use before the end of the year.
If you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about your options for seeking justice.