FMCSA, NHTSA seek input on regulating automated driving systems

July 2019

Mark Schremmer

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued advance notices of proposed rulemaking on the removal of “unnecessary regulatory barriers” to the introduction of automated vehicles in the United States. The notices were published in the Federal Register on May 28.

The agencies seek input from the public about the possibility of removing “unnecessary regulatory barriers” relating to the introduction of automated vehicles in the United States.

“FMCSA requests public comment about Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations that may need to be amended, revised or eliminated to facilitate the safe introduction of automated driving systems equipped commercial motor vehicles onto our nation’s roadways,” the advance notice of proposed rulemaking stated. “In approaching the task of adapting its regulations to accommodate automated vehicle technologies, FMCSA is considering changes to its rules to account for significant differences between human operators and automated driving systems.”

The agency considers there to be five levels of automation, from some driver assistance (Level 1) to full driving automation (Level 5).

FMCSA’s notice includes about 40 questions regarding commercial driver’s license endorsements, hours-of-service rules, medical qualifications, distracted driving, safe driving, repairs and maintenance, roadside inspections, cybersecurity, and confidentiality.

Some of the questions include:

 

  • Should FMCSA consider amending or augmenting the definition of “driver” and/or “operator” or define a term such as “ADS driver” to reduce the potential for misinterpretation of the requirements?
  • Should a CDL endorsement be required of individuals operating an automated driving system-equipped commercial motor vehicle?
  • Should hours-of-service rule changes be considered if automated driving systems technology performs all of the driving tasks while a human is off duty or in the sleeper berth or physically remote from the commercial motor vehicle?
  • Should some of the physical qualification rules be eliminated or made less stringent for humans remotely monitoring or potentially controlling automated driving systems-equipped commercial motor vehicles?
  • How should the prohibition against districted driving apply to onboard operators responsible for taking control of the commercial motor vehicle under certain situations and to remote operators with similar responsibilities?
  • What kind of routine or scheduled inspections should be performed, and what types of automated driving systems-related maintenance records should be required?
  • Should motor carriers be required to notify FMCSA that they are operating Level 4 or 5 automated driving systems-equipped commercial motor vehicles?
  • What types of safety and cargo security risks may be introduced with the integration of automated driving systems-equipped commercial motor vehicles?
  • To what extent do automated driving systems developers believe performance data should be considered proprietary and withheld from the public?

 

Comments will be accepted until Aug. 26. You may submit your comments at Regulations.gov by using docket number FMCSA-2018-0037 or by mailing Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation; 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE; West building, room W12-140; Washington, D.C. 20590-0001.

NHTSA’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking seeks public comment on the near- and long-term challenges of testing and verifying compliance for automated driving systems vehicles that lack traditional manual controls necessary for a human driver to maneuver the vehicle.

NHTSA’s notice includes 33 questions. Comments may be submitted until July 29 using docket number NHTSA-2019-0036.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is working on comments for the notices.

“The assumption that a commercial motor vehicle driver will be anything other than a human is rather premature,” said Jay Grimes, OOIDA’s director of federal affairs. “In response to the advance notice of proposed rulemaking, OOIDA will be providing feedback on the agency’s questions regarding requirements of human drivers, hours of service, and CDL endorsements, as well as many other safety issues presented by the development of automated vehicles.”

In March, OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer told a panel in Washington, D.C., that America isn’t ready for autonomous trucking.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen tomorrow, and I don’t see how it could realistically happen without every aspect of vehicles – not just trucks but every other vehicle on the road – and the roadway system itself (being automated),” Spencer said. LL

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, associate editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and nearly two decades of journalism experience to our staff.

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