USDOT Secretary Addresses “Biggest Challenge” Facing Driverless Trucks
Washington D.C. – A recent interview with United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Elaine Chao is providing more insight into how the Department is working to bring about its goal of speeding the deployment of autonomous vehicles (AV) on American roadways.
In an interview earlier this month with Mass Transit Magazine, Sec. Chao identified what she believes to be the biggest challenge standing in the way of hundreds of thousands of driverless trucks and self-driving cars operating on U.S. interstates and highways.
“The biggest challenge of all will be addressing public concern about the safety, security and privacy of fully automated vehicles,” she said. “Progress is being made, but there still lies a long road ahead.”
Sec. Chao again made it quite clear the USDOT is actively working to address the motoring public’s reticence when it comes to accepting driverless vehicles.
In June, the USDOT announced the launch of the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing (AV TEST) Initiative.
As part of the AV Test Initiative, USDOT leaders are hosting a series of public events to promote the technology.
“The Department’s AV TEST Initiative aims to address just that by improving transparency and safety in testing,” Sec. Chao told the magazine.
The AV TEST Initiative also comes only a few months after powerful trucking stakeholders urged the USDOT to do more to address the public’s distrust in AVs.
In January of this year, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), which is the research arm of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), demanded that USDOT and U.S. lawmakers begin to condition the public for 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,” ATRI said in a report.
In addition to focusing on shifting public opinion on the issue, the Department is also working closely with autonomous technology makers and trucking stakeholders to help improve the driverless systems.
In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) admitted earlier this year that the data collected in its upcoming trucker crash study will be used to help driverless technology developers and autonomous truck makers.
Despite a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study released last year warning that as many as 900,000 truckers could be put out of a job in as soon as the next decade, the USDOT continues to move full speed ahead in the name of “safety.”
“AV technology holds the potential to save thousands of lives annually, and improve quality of life through reduced traffic congestion, increased productivity and environmental benefits,” Sec. Chao told Mass Transit Magazine. “AVs also hold the potential to restore mobility for millions of people who face transportation challenges, such as people with disabilities and older adults.”
Is the USDOT’s push to promote driverless vehicles really about safety or is it about the hundreds of billions of dollars that stand to be made in the burgeoning autonomous industry?
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