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1/10/2017 10:20:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Autonomous Trucks Hold Promise, But Sensible Regulation Is Needed, ATA’s Spear Tells TRB

Seth Clevenger/Transport Topics
WASHINGTON — Autonomous truck technology holds the potential to enhance safety, efficiency and productivity in the trucking industry, but its successful deployment hinges on regulations that help rather than hinder it, said Chris Spear, president of the American Trucking Associations.

While the widespread adoption of highly automated trucks is still many years away, “the debate over the regulatory framework that will govern it is happening now, and trucking must be a part of it,” said Spear, one of several speakers to address the topic during a Jan. 9 panel discussion here at the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting.

“It is important that government policies and regulations do not stifle innovation or inhibit the flexibility of carriers to choose automated technologies best suited to their individual needs,” he said.

Automated driving systems also will need to be demonstrably safer than today’s manually driven vehicles, said Anthony Levandowski, co-founder of Otto, which is developing an automated driving aftermarket kit for heavy-duty trucks.

“The reason we are building this technology is safety,” he said.

Otto, which was acquired last year by Uber, captured the attention of the trucking industry in October by hauling a load of beer for Anheuser-Busch in Colorado, an event the company hailed as the first commercial shipment by a self-driving truck.

The advent of automated driving technology could change the entire conversation about many key challenges facing the industry.

“Most of the issues we encounter in the trucking industry today … could at least be addressed if not negated by autonomous trucks,” said Daniel Murray, vice president of research at the American Transportation Research Institute.

For example, the technology might eliminate the rationale for current hours-of-service requirements such as mandatory rest breaks, which could in turn alleviate the nation’s chronic truck parking shortage.

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By Seth Clevenger
Technology Editor

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