FMCSA Conducting Trucker Crash Study to Help Driverless Truck Makers
Washington D.C. – Findings from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) upcoming trucker crash study will be used to help driverless technology developers and autonomous truck makers.
A Request for Information (RFI) issued January 14, 2020 by the FMCSA makes clear the Agency is working to speed deployment of autonomous trucks and wants help from truckers to do it.
The FMCSA’s RFI announced its intent to study why large truck-involved crashes are on the rise.
The Agency says it will gather information from “the public, academics, experts, and industry” to help it best develop a Large Truck Crash Causal Factors Study (LTCCFS).
FMCSA claims the purpose of the study is to evaluate emerging trends, identify causes and contributing factors, as well as to develop effective safety improvement policies and programs.
However, that’s not all the Agency intends to do with data it collects during the course of its LTCCFS.
“Findings from the study can be used to inform technology developers in the autonomous vehicle environment of the kinds of driver behaviors that need to be addressed,” the RFI states.
It continues, “This new study will develop a baseline of large truck crash factors to help guide mitigating crash avoidance strategies to prevent future crashes even in the SAE International driving automation level 4 and 5 vehicles.”
In a footnote, the FMCSA specifies, “SAE Level 4 is High Autonomation, where the vehicle is capable of performing all driving functions under certain conditions. SAE Level 5 is Full Autonomation, where the vehicle is capable of performing all driving functions under all conditions.”
The RFI also asserts, “Knowing more about driver behaviors will identify areas where new driving automation systems can be of help, and aid in formulating performance metrics and standards that may need to be considered if they are to reduce crashes involving large trucks.”
Finally, the Agency explains, “because some of the driver assistance systems are already deployed in many fleets, this study can provide data on their effectiveness in determining what crash avoidance capabilities may need to be incorporated in the Automated Driving Systems (ADS) that may be provided on the CMV platforms in the future.”
The public comment period on the RFI will end March 13, 2020.
To submit you comment, click HERE.
USDOT Under Mounting Pressure
The FMCSA’s admission of its intent to aid autonomous tech developers and truck makers is not a surprise to those who have been paying attention.
U.S. policy leaders are under intense pressure by extremely powerful and heavily-invested special interests to win the artificial intelligence (AI) race.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has been quite clear about its plans to win that race and speed the deployment of autonomous vehicles here in the U.S.
For example, earlier this month the USDOT released its fourth edition of Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies report (AV 4.0).
“The United States Government is committed to fostering surface transportation innovations to ensure the United States leads the world in automated vehicle (AV) technology development and integration while prioritizing safety, security, and privacy and safeguarding the freedoms enjoyed by Americans,” the report states.
Despite a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study released last year warning that as many as 900,000 long-haul truckers could be put out of a job in as soon as the next decade, the USDOT is moving full speed ahead in the name of “safety.”
AV 4.0 argues “advances in these [autonomous] technologies can reduce roadway crashes, fatalities, and injuries and assist the USDOT in managing safety risks along the path to the full commercial integration of AV technology.”
Trucking Think-Tank Demands “Proactive Federal Guidance”
The USDOT and federal lawmakers are also under fire from powerful interests within the trucking community to do more to help speed the testing and deployment of autonomous trucks (AT).
Calling it a “top research priority,” the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) this month released a 54-page report entitled, Redefining the Role of Government Activities in Automated Trucking.
ATRI’s report asserts the current “framework for the safe testing of autonomous trucks” is simply not keeping up with the “lightening speed” pace of technology development in the autonomous truck sphere.
The report explains it this way.
Due to the complexity of navigating around a patchwork of state laws in interstate commerce, the potential use cases for AV technologies could be limited to local or regional operations in locations with favorable regulatory frameworks.
More specifically, a fragmented regulatory landscape across states will hinder their deployment in interstate trucking where the potential is highest for highly automated technologies to handle operations on long stretches of interstate.
ATRI also urged lawmakers to do more to educate the public on the potential safety benefits of AVs even when the inevitable reality of AV-involved crashes occur.
It is important for the public to understand that AVs will not be 100 percent accident-free, but public education programs using AV testing outcomes can have a positive impact on public perception.
Additionally, ATRI’s report reveals more about its findings regarding the FMCSA’s ongoing role in helping prepare for the deployment of ATs.
FMCSA is also open to changing existing regulations under its purview in light of different operational conditions that may emerge from the deployment of AV technology in trucking.
According to ATRI research, these changes could include:
• Updating the existing hours-of-service (HOS) regulations governing the time that a truck driver can work and drive, as more advanced AV technologies could allow a driver to comply with the rest break requirements and duty time limits while the AV is in control of the vehicle; and
• Altering how the safety areas, known as BASICS, monitored as part of its Safety Management System are defined and scored.
Given these confluence of events, and many more, it’s no wonder why the FMCSA is conducting a new trucker crash study to help the burgeoning autonomous vehicle industry.
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