ATA seeks national framework for autonomous vehicles

by Today's Trucking

Automated vehicle technology holds great promise to enhance highway safety, boost economic productivity and support trucking’s essential workforce, Chris Spear, president and CEO of American Trucking Associations told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

In order to harness this technology’s full potential, Spear emphasized that regulations must be consistent to avoid a patchwork of rules that treat highway users differently. 

autonomous trucks
(File photo: Daimler Truck North America)

“What’s needed first is a national framework that encourages development, testing and deployment of technology, in direct support of interstate commerce,” Spear said in a hearing before the panel’s subcommittee on highways and transit. “Federal guidance should treat commercial and passenger vehicles equally and require automated vehicles to achieve an acceptable level of safety and performance, rather than requiring the use of specific technologies.” 

California passes bill banning driverless trucks

The California Senate passed a bill this week mandating humans behind the wheel of autonomous trucks on state highways. Assembly Bill 316 prohibits autonomous trucks weighing 10,001 pounds (4,536 kg) or more from using the state’s roads if a driver is not present on board. The bill has been sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom for approval.

Spear noted that the hearing fell during National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, a celebration of the nation’s 3.5 million professional drivers, and highlighted how automated vehicle technology can coexist, making drivers jobs easier while reducing persistent shortages that have long impacted the industry. 

“There’s plenty of room for innovation to help fill this gap without displacing drivers,” said Spear. “To the contrary, we see this technology as improving the essential job of truck driving by making it safer, more productive, and less stressful. We believe it is vital to attracting the next generation of talent into the profession.” 

In addition, Spear said “securing cargo and ensuring that the movement of hazardous materials, livestock and produce, particularly in extreme weather conditions, are factors that will undoubtedly require a driver, superseding the values of automation.” 

With an eye toward the future, Spear underscored the importance of continuing to develop domestically sourced chips and software to maintain the United States’ leadership in innovation as well as prevent cybersecurity threats. 

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  • This a very bad idea look at how badly auto braking semi trucks hauling liquid has worked in snow storm
    Look at how self driven taxis are working when emergency trucks are involved
    A much better idea is a railway track for long distance travel. How are these trucks going to get insurance