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Company tests self-driving semi-trucks

Truck drivers have mixed opinions on new technology

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A former Google employee who helped create Google’s self-driving technology has rolled out a starter company Otto, which is testing its own driverless freight trucks with hopes to get the technology in trucks across the U.S.

According to the American Trucking Association, nearly 70 percent of all goods in the U.S. is moved on trucks, making more than $600 billion a year.

News4Jax made a pit stop at a truck stop on Jacksonville’s Northside to speak with several truck drivers, who have mixed reviews on the new technology.

“I could imagine it. It’ll be nice. But I wouldn’t want to do it,” truck driver Donnell Harris said.

Otto uses sophisticated software, sensors, lasers and cameras in hopes of putting self-driving semis on the road.

Some truck drivers are on board.

“I would like to see how it works out. It might be a great thing,” truck driver Terry Osby said.

While others are opposed to the technology.

“I think it's not a good idea because technology can mess up and does mess up a lot,” truck driver Donnell Harris said.

Harris and Robert Nall are partners who drive long routes through several states. They said their job can get difficult at times.

"I think the technology is awesome. I love the technology. But the actual truck itself, it weighs 80,000 pounds. That's a lot of weight going by itself and if something goes wrong, it's going to be a big problem,” Nall said.

Harris agreed that there could be problems if a driver wasn’t behind the wheel of a freight truck.

"The hardest thing would probably be weather. Especially winter, I don't see how a computer is going to be able to compute driving on ice and snow,” Harris said.

The founders of Otto said their technology will only help with the issues truck drivers face and make the roads safer. According to the Department of Transportation, nearly 20 percent of about 4,000 deadly crashes in the U.S. each year involve trucks and buses and are linked to driver fatigue.

"More money, more miles, more rest,” Osby said. "It might be (safer) than what we (drivers) are already."

Self-driving trucks is not a new idea. Last year, Freightliner released the first licensed self-driving truck in the state of Nevada.

It has not yet been determined when this technology will go mainstream since more tests will have to be done.