- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration gathered with trucking industry stakeholders in Atlanta Monday to hear concerns and suggestions for regulating self-driving heavy-duty vehicles, various outlets reported.
- Issues discussed included: changing the current hours of service regulation, potential liability in case of an accident, the complications surrounding different levels of autonomous vehicles, and the positive or negative effect of the technology on driver recruitment, according to DC Velocity.
- The three-person government panel involved in the listening session assured the audience they sought to create regulations that would "run alongside development" of the technology, while continuing to emphasize safety, Overdrive reports.
The issues raised at the listening session highlight the broad concerns surrounding autonomous trucks, which will further complicate the task of developing far-reaching federal regulations.
Even defining an autonomous truck is difficult. Developers note four levels of self-driving technology for vehicles, with Level 4 being completely autonomous, while Level 3 requires a driver to be present in the cab in order to act when needed. In the race to develop the vehicles, however, manufacturers are pursuing all different degrees of automation.
Many in the industry draw the line at Level 3, arguing humans will remain necessary both for highway and cargo safety. Truck platoons, already being tested in various states, still require humans to react in case of emergency. But once humans are kept in the equation, the complex regulatory framework is added as an issue as well: Should hours-of-service regulations, which are meant to keep drivers alert, be extended in order to exploit autonomous technology's full potential, or remain as-is?
With projections of fully-autonomous vehicles (although not necessarily trucks) potentially reaching markets as early as 2019, any regulatory process needed to begin now if it were to succeed. For stakeholders, it's likely heartening to see the FMCSA taking an active, though silently observant interest in the matter.