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July 15, 2019 5:30 PM, EDT

Louisiana’s Autonomous Truck Rules Will Take Effect Aug. 1

Autonomous truck The law allows autonomous trucks to operate in Louisiana without a human driver in the vehicle as long as the vehicle meets certain criteria. (ZF Group)

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Louisiana’s recently approved regulations for autonomous commercial motor vehicles will take effect Aug. 1.

The law, signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards in June, establishes operational parameters and reporting requirements for autonomous trucks and their drivers.

The legislation defines an autonomous commercial motor vehicle as any motor vehicle that is used for commerce and equipped with an automated driving system, including one that can function without a driver.

The law allows autonomous trucks to operate in Louisiana without a human driver in the vehicle as long as the vehicle meets certain criteria. The requirements dictate that the autonomous truck must be compliant with federal and state law, properly registered and have a minimum of $2 million in insurance coverage.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards

Edwards

The truck also must be able to achieve a “minimal risk condition” in case of operational failure, meaning there must be a state the user or automated driving system can bring the vehicle to when systems fail in order to reduce the risk of a crash. This may involve slowing down the vehicle or bringing the vehicle to a safe stop.

Louisiana’s Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) will serve as the sole agency with jurisdiction over autonomous trucks and automated driving systems, according to the legislation.

Although there is no autonomous truck testing going on right now in Louisiana, DOTD Intelligent Transportation Systems Director Stephen Glascock said the legislation helps the state prepare for systems that may soon be a reality.

“Obviously, the technology is being matured, and one day, it’s going to be out on the street, and we need to be prepared for it,” Glascock told Transport Topics. “I think that was the driving force behind getting the legislation passed.”

Prior to operating an autonomous truck without a human driver in the cab, a person or company needs to submit a written statement to DOTD certifying that the vehicle meets the necessary requirements. Failure to comply may result in a traffic citation.

If the autonomous truck is involved in an accident while the automated driving system is engaged, the law requires that the vehicle remain at the scene of the accident while the company representing the truck contacts law enforcement.

Glascock said the legislation reflects input from DOTD’s committee devoted to connected and autonomous vehicle technology, which was formed a few years ago to keep up with industry trends and help draft policies. He described the group as a “cross-cutting of disciplines” that represent design, operations and information technology interests.

Louisiana joins 28 other states and the District of Columbia as jurisdictions that have enacted autonomous vehicle legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some states, such as Ohio, have pursued self-driving truck tests.

Glascock said a company recently contacted DOTD to express interest in conducting a platooning test along a portion of Interstate 49, which runs diagonally across most of the state and forms a link to Dallas.

“We’re excited, if nothing else, just to see this technology come about,” Glascock said. “We feel that there can be, as the industry has indicated, significant improvements to the transportation service. We certainly want to support it wherever we can.”