Regulations and the future of driverless trucks

31 Aug, 2019 | posted in: News | 0
Regulations and the future of driverless trucks

The American Trucking Association (ATA) has officially stated that, going forward, federal trucking regulations should be interpreted with the emergence of driverless commercial vehicles in mind. The ATA’s comments are in line with the US Department of Transportation’s recent assertion that current regulations do not stipulate that an actual person be behind the wheel of an automated truck.

Said comments were specifically addressed to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is considering writing a new set of rules applicable to Level 4 and Level 5 automated driving systems.

“It is … appropriate for FMCSA to interpret its regulations to no longer assume that the [truck] driver is always a human or that a human is present onboard a commercial vehicle during its operation, provided that the vehicle is equipped with a Level 4 or Level 5 ADS,” ATA stated, according to Freight Waves. “In addition, we request that FMCSA codify this conclusion by including it in the upcoming proposed rule.”

The exchange comes as more people voice concerns about the safety of automated vehicles, particularly when they are not subject to strict regulations.

The ATA has not responded to these concerns. Nor has it provided an ETA for automated commercial vehicles. In response to inquiries, the ATA said the answers have to come from the companies currently at work on automated technology. One such company, Embark, was unable to say when automated commercial trucks would hit the market.

“However,” Embark said, “we believe, along with a growing consensus of industry experts, that the economic and technological advantages [of Level 4 trucks] are likely to be one of the first widespread applications of vehicle automation technology.”

The ATA’s recommendation elicited a hundreds of comments from organizations, companies and individuals.

The Truckload Carriers’ Association, for example, rejected the notion that trucks should be able to operate without a human on board, even as it acknowledged the inevitability of driverless commerical vehicles:

“TCA maintains that a human ‘operator’ should be present in all vehicles, regardless of their level of automation.”