FMCSA to Research Truckers Using Autonomous Technology
It is widely considered that the most dangerous part of a Class 8 truck is the driver behind the wheel. If he or she is not actively paying attention, catastrophic damage can occur. Autonomous trucking technology is slowly getting better, but long before trucks ever become fully automatic, they will become easier to handle but still require human intervention. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration wants to know the effects that augmented trucking will have on the safety of the roads.
On September 21st, the FMCSA posted its intention to do the study onto the Federal Register. In the submission, the FMCSA mentions that there are many different levels of autonomous driving, ranging from L1 (cruise control) to L4 (drive in your sleep).
The area the FMCSA is worried about is L2 and L3, where the trucker still needs to pay some level of attention to the road in case of specific circumstances such as broken down car parts on the road. From the submission:
“In an L3 vehicle, the role of distraction is blurred. The driver takes on a more supervisory role and is in full control of the vehicle…When an L3 vehicle alerts the driver that a takeover is required, the driver needs to have to resume full control of the vehicle. Engagement in non-driving secondary tasks may prevent the driver from maintaining situational awareness of the driving environment.“
In short, the FMCSA wants to know if it can trust drivers to not become too distracted when autopilot is on.
The lines between consumer and corporate responsibility are very unclear in regards to autonomous vehicles; not but one month ago Tesla was sued for both claiming it could get a driver from Point A to Point B with no intervention while also saying it was not intended to replace the driver.
The FMCSA is offering industry stakeholders to comment on its submission before it goes into effect. If you have an opinion regarding it, you can submit it at the relevant webpage at the Federal Register.
Whatever happens in regards to L2 and L3 level autonomous trucking technology, one thing is for sure: it will still be a long time before trucks can reliably travel across the nation without a driver at the helm, if not for technological reasons, for legal reasons.
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