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FMCSA to recruit truck drivers for autonomous vehicle study

100 drivers expected to participate in research to assess L2 and L3 automation

ADS-equipped truck. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is calling on 100 truck drivers to participate in an experiment using a simulator to evaluate distractions that occur while driving trucks equipped with lower-level autonomous technology.

The research, which will also include a non-simulator training study session, will assess driver readiness when assuming control of a truck with Level 2 (L2) and Level 3 (L3) autonomous driving systems (ADS) and develop a driver-distraction training program, according to a notice to be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday.

The notice is a request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to review and approve the study. The public will have 60 days to comment on it.

FMCSA states in the notice that more research is needed on ADS in trucking because so far most are installed in passenger vehicles, with ADS in commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) only recently being used in real-world operations.

“Therefore, FMCSA needs more data on ADS-equipped CMVs to understand driver behavior and policy implications,” the agency stated.

L2 is considered “partial” driving automation, including features that control steering, braking and accelerating, but the human driver must be fully and continuously engaged, according to the Society of Automotive Engineers. L3 is considered “conditional” driving automation, whereby the vehicle can perform all driving tasks under some circumstances, but a human driver must be ready to take back control at any time.

“When an L3 vehicle alerts the driver that a takeover is required, the driver needs to have situational awareness to resume full control of the vehicle,” FMCSA stated. “Engagement in non-driving secondary tasks may prevent the driver from maintaining situational awareness of the driving environment.”

The ADS experiment, the agency notes, “will provide insight into the human factors associated with semi-automated CMVs. Moreover, these findings will inform training materials to educate drivers on distraction and the functionality of ADS as well as policy pertaining to the implications of ADS in CMVs.”

According to FMCSA’s most current significant rulemaking report, the agency anticipates issuing in November a proposed rule on integrating ADS-equipped trucks onto roads and highways.

FMCSA said it expects to get 100 drivers to participate in the experiment, with 50 participating in the L2 study sessions and 50 in the L3 sessions. Each study session will be completed in 4 hours, for a total of up to 8 hours for participating drivers.

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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.