North Carolina

Self-driving semitrucks may soon share the road in Virginia

Drivers in Virginia could soon be sharing the road with self-driving 18-wheelers.

The company Daimler Trucks, along with Torc Robotics, has been developing these automatic semitrucks and testing them on closed roads for months, but is now ready to try them on public roads, according to a release.

The trucks will make their debut on highways in the southwest part of the state, home to Torc Robotics, the release says, and each will have an engineer and highly-trained driver on board.

The trucks use Society of Automotive Engineers International Level 4 technology, according to the release.

This level of driving automation essentially means the vehicle drives itself. Even if there is someone in the driver’s seat, they will not need to take over, and the vehicle can handle traffic jams on its own, according to SAE International, which is a standards-developing organization.

However, it can only drive under certain conditions, SAE says, unlike vehicles with the highest Level 5 technology that can drive in all conditions.

Martin Daum, a member of Daimler’s Board of Management, said in the release that Daimler is the “market leader in trucks” and Torc Robotics is a “leader in automated driving technology.”

“Bringing Level 4 trucks to the public roads is a major step toward our goal to deliver reliable and safe trucks for the benefits of our customers, our economies and society,” Daum said, according to the release.

But these self-driving trucks might not be good for everyone.

A study by the University of California, Berkeley Labor Center and Working Partnerships USA found driverless trucks could take away hundreds of thousands of jobs.

83,000 of the “best trucking jobs,” in which drivers make between $60,000 and $70,000 annually, and 211,000 “lesser-quality” trucking jobs, in which drivers make between $46,000 and $53,000 annually, would be at risk, the study found.

And although new local and delivery driving jobs would consequently be created, these jobs likely wouldn’t pay nearly as much as those lost, the study says.

“If we want innovation to benefit all of us, we need a more balanced approach: one where workers and the public play an active role in guiding innovation, and those who profit from new technology also take responsibility for its impacts,” Derecka Mehrens, executive director of Working Partnerships USA, said in a release about the study.

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Bailey Aldridge is a reporter covering real-time news in North and South Carolina. She has a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.