Trucking Regulators, Stakeholders, and Media Align to Promote Self-Driving Trucks
Little Rock, AR – Commercial motor vehicle (CMV) regulators, along with many trucking stakeholders and their partners in the establishment industry media, are increasingly becoming aligned to promote the rapid development and deployment of self-driving technologies in big rigs.
Last week, in what some industry insiders believe could be a coordinated effort, self-driving tech maker Pronto ai asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to grant an exemption from the federal hours of service (HOS) regulations for its customers.
Specifically, Pronto ai is asking the Agency on behalf of its interstate motor carrier customers to grant a renewable five-year exemption from HOS rules to allow for an additional two hours of daily driving time and an extension of the daily on duty clock by one hour.
The timing of the exemption request, especially during a national emergency, is drawing significant questions.
Read more about it HERE.
The Agency’s handling of Pronto ai’s HOS exemption request will be one to watch closely as it could be a precursor to a flood of additional similar requests.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has been quite clear about its plans to speed the deployment of autonomous vehicles (AV) here in the U.S.
For example, in January 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 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.”
To further illustrate USDOT’s commitment to accelerate AV deployment, in March of this year, the Department provided a $7.5 million grant to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) to conduct a four-year study of AVs.
The purpose of the study is to provide the trucking industry, regulators, and the general public with practical guidelines for safely integrating automated driving systems into current fleets.
Interestingly, Pronto ai is actively participating in the study.
Powerful Trucking Stakeholders Promoting AVs
Calling AV development a “top research priority,” the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), which is the research arm of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), released a 54-page report earlier this year 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.
ATRI’s report argues the FMSCA has a pivotal role in helping bring about public acceptance and also assist in speeding the deployment of AVs.
Specifically to aid in these objectives, ATRI suggests:
Updating the existing 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.
The similarity between ATRI’s suggestion and Pronto ai’s exemption request cannot be overlooked.
Read more on ATRI’s report HERE.
Trucking Media Promoting AVs
Joining powerful trucking stakeholders in the promotion of AVs is much of the establishment trucking media.
As an example, in August of 2019, Dean Croke, chief insight officer at FreightWaves, test drove two trucks equipped with Pronto ai’s Copilot system.
Following the test drives, Croke gave his thoughts on how Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and self-driving technology will positively change the trucking industry.
“I think with technology like this, when you’ve got more driver assistance, it actually becomes a different driving job than what it used to be,” he said. “I think that makes it more attractive for other generations that are coming along to join the workforce because right now there is a shortage of applicants in the industry. There is a shortage of qualified drivers who can drive, so the more technology we have in trucks to make it quicker to learn and safer, I think the industry will be a lot better off.”
This is only one example of many, of course, but illustrates where regulators, powerful trucking stakeholders, and trucking media is currently aligned on the issue.
WATCH Croke’s test drive below.
Image courtesy of TuSimple
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