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DOT lays out strategy for automated trucking

FMCSA plans to host sessions with ADS truck developers, manufacturers and carriers to create operational standards

Chao lays out vision for automated vehicles. (Photo: iStock)

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released on Monday a strategy for integrating automated driving systems (ADS) into the commercial trucking and passenger vehicle sectors.

The 38-page Automated Vehicles Comprehensive Plan (AVCP), which will be published in the Federal Register for public review and comment, “lays out a vision for the safe integration of automated vehicles into America’s transportation system while ensuring that legitimate concerns about safety, security, and privacy are addressed,” said Secretary Elaine Chao.

It was one of Chao’s last public announcements before resigning from DOT on Monday.

The AVCP notes how automated trucking companies are developing Level 4 ADS which have an “operational design domain” of limited-access highways, either from exit to exit or on-ramp to off-ramp.

The document states that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) plans to host a series of sessions with ADS-equipped CMV developers, truck manufacturers, motor carriers, industry associations and other groups to further develop industry-based standards for trucks that eventually will be operated without a driver. It points out that DOT is actively studying the potential impacts of ADS on the country’s long-haul trucking workforce.

“In the context of ADS-equipped CMVs, FMCSA will continue to exercise its existing statutory authority over the safety of motor carriers operating in interstate commerce, the qualifications and safety of CMV drivers, and the safe operation of commercial trucks and motor coaches. FMCSA retains its authority to take enforcement action if an automated system inhibits safe operation.”

Chao’s ADS announcement came as DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that its Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing (AV TEST) Initiative had evolved from a pilot project created in 2020 with nine companies to a full program that now includes 26 companies, including self-driving truck developers TuSimple, Embark and Kodiak.

“This the first platform connecting the public, manufacturers, developers, operators, and all levels of government to voluntarily share information about the on-road testing and development of prototype automated driving systems,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens.

FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck commented that AV technology could ultimately save thousands of lives. “FMCSA is pleased that initiatives like AV TEST can help in this regard by deepening the knowledge in this area. We take seriously our responsibility to ensure the testing, and eventual AV deployment is conducted in a manner that maintains the highest level of safety for the motoring public,” he said.

Speaking in support of the AV TEST expansion, Ariel Wolf, counsel for the Self Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, noted that an estimated 90% of all crashes are in some way linked to human error. “Fully autonomous vehicles have the potential to reduce fatal traffic crashes because they remove human error from the driving process entirely.”

Wolf announced that TuSimple, Embark and Kodiak — in addition to being part of AV TEST — had become the first companies dedicated exclusively to developing self-driving trucks to join his coalition. Other members of the Coalition, founded in 2016 to promote driverless vehicles, include Nuro, Lyft, Uber and Waymo.

“The addition of Embark, Kodiak and TuSimple marks the coalition’s commitment to advocating for the broad spectrum of autonomous vehicle use cases,” Wolf said. “By adding their voices to our work with federal, state, and local policy makers, the coalition enhances our commitment to making self-driving technologies’ transformative potential a reality on America’s roads and highways.”

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  1. Jerre

    This will be a huge disaster.80,000 lbs.rolling down the road with no driver,and a circuit board fails and the truck crashes into a school bus full of kids.And unless there’s a politician,s child on board they will push it under the rug.

  2. Adam

    Just as employers will build a case on you in case they have ever have to “let you go” fmcsa and dot are doing the same with drivers to usher in this new era of unemployment, control, mental illness, and suicide.

  3. Adam

    Make sure you have a good dashcam, guys, even if you’re a company driver. Go ahead and spend the money. It will protect you from these wreckless autonomous trucks which will always win in court unless you have proof otherwise. Rules are being thrown out for these trucks that we have to follow, but not them. Also, wheres the objectionable journalism? These articles are one sided as hell.

  4. Samuel

    If automatic trucks could be implemented safely today I would bet my life that every company would cut the human driver out of the picture regardless of the financial problems it would cause to him or her. This has been the collective wet dream for carriers for quite a while.

  5. William

    If it not bad enough already, these company are paying lower wages such as $20.00 dollars an hour , the driver have went back twenty years and still making the same wages today an now you are trying to put the blame on the driver ,to make an excuse for trying to bring these none driver truck,where these company and broker are
    Making the money and the driver are being snuffed out!

  6. Wayne Mills

    Every truck manufactured in the past few years has the same kind of safety technology, between Lane Divergent sensors, object detection, and following distance sensors. They also have the commonality of Those sensors malfunctioning on a regular basis. You can take human error out of the equation, but the majority of human drivers do not make these errors, while every single sensor goes out at some point. As with everything political, this system completely ignores The fundamental flaws.

    1. Nicholas Lopez

      This can be done only in dedicated lanes and dedicated areas. To mix with the public is not realistic nor honest is toany variables. Don’t buy into a engineers ego.

    2. Chuck

      Electrical shortages are going to be an issue they cannot make believe that they are capable of stopping malfunctioning of programming and the possibility of a lightning strike or an animal or object that has no visible connection

  7. Kevin Coble

    And yet another idiot that doesn’t get that most of those human errors are not truck driver errors. Automated trucks are only going to reduce fatal crashes…. And that’s a maybe…. When all vehicles are automated and there are no human drivers period on the road. Until then, it will be a disaster, mark my words.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.