Legislators Say New Law Allowing Driverless Trucks Will Make Highway Work Zones Safer
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has signed a new law (HB 1958) that officials hope will increase safety in work zones and calls for the allowance of platooning.
The law allows the use of automated work zone vehicles by PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission. According to officials, driverless trucks would be positioned at the rear of work zones and imitate the moves of a control truck in the front of the zone. If in the event a distracted driver veers into the work zone the driverless truck would take the impact and protect the construction crew.
Carl Defebo with the PA Turnpike Commission tells pahomepage.com, “The bill is really going to improve safety for our workers.” “In the past 10 years or so, close to 1,200 workers have lost their lives in work zones on our highways,” said Bob Scaer, CEO of Gannett Fleming, at a press conference about the need for the new legislation.
As part of the legislation, PennDOT will now establish an automated vehicle advisory committee to evaluate the new effects of the new law and assess future uses of automated vehicles. Tests with the driverless vehicles are expected to begin sometime in 2019.
The new PA legislation now also allows for platooning of up to three vehicles while working on limited-access highways or interstates. Platooning is new driver-assist technology that connects the operating systems of vehicles such as steering, speed and braking.
Following vehicles mimic the operations of the lead vehicle and proponents say it will increase safety and reduce fuel consumption by reducing aerodynamic drag on the following vehicles. Critics say platooning is far from proven and could actually make the motoring public less safe because the technology cannot account for certain driving scenarios and weather-related conditions.