FMCSA Plans Driver Behavior Study on Self-Driving Trucks

Simulator, 100 CMV Operators Will Be Involved
Department of Transportation headquarters
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will accept comments on the notice through July 24. (U.S. Department of Transportation)

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking approval from the Office of Management and Budget to conduct a human-factors study that will examine the effect of nondriving secondary task engagement, transfer of control and training on driver behavior in commercial motor vehicles equipped with L2 advanced driver-assistance systems and L3 automated driving systems.

The study will be conducted in a driving simulator with 100 commercial vehicle drivers and include a series of questionnaires, the agency said in a June 23 notice published in the Federal Register.

Advanced driver assistance systems and automated driving systems are helping to reduce how much a truck driver has to do while behind the wheel,” the agency said. “ADS systems could even remove the need for truck drivers in certain applications.”

However, higher levels of ADAS and lower levels of ADS “present an environment that is ripe for overreliance,” FMCSA said.

The Issues

Public comments to the proposed notice in November revolved around issues  including:

  • General safety concerns
  • Concern for job loss due to ADS-equipped CMVs
  • Concerns related to the operation of ADS within specific operational design domains
  • Concerns with specific ADS and/or ADAS
  • The failure of ADS sensors
  • The security of ADS-equipped CMV
  • Driver inattention/distraction when operating an ADS
  • The actual data collection efforts and support for the study

“An L2 vehicle offers longitudinal and lateral support to the driver; however, the driver is still responsible for driving at all times,” the notice said. “At this level, engaging in nondriving secondary tasks can be highly detrimental to driving performance as the driver may not recognize and respond to hazards timely or appropriately.

“In an L3 vehicle, the role of distraction is blurred. L3 is the lowest level considered to be ADS. The driver takes on a more supervisory role and is in full control of the vehicle in a limited number of situations. When an L3 vehicle alerts the driver that a takeover is required, the driver needs to have situational awareness to resume full control of the vehicle.”

FMCSA said engagement in nondriving secondary tasks also may prevent the driver from maintaining situational awareness of the driving environment.

The notice said a recently completed study by FMCSA on research involving ADS in commercial motor vehicles found a lack of research related to ADS-equipped CMVs. “To date, most commercial ADSs on U.S. roadways are in passenger vehicles, and commercial motor vehicle ADS have only recently begun being implemented in real-world operations,” the notice said.

As a result, the agency said it needs more data on ADS-equipped CMVs to understand driver behavior and policy implications.

Comments on this notice must be received on or before July 24.

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