FMCSA, NHTSA extend comment period for autonomous vehicle rulemaking

July 30, 2019

Greg Grisolano

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Federal agencies are providing an extra 30 days for public comments on a set of advanced notices of proposed rulemaking dealing with autonomous vehicles.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is publishing an announcement in the Federal Register that will extend the deadline to comment on its autonomous vehicles proposed rulemaking until Aug. 28. FMCSA says the agency received a request to extend the comment period from the American Trucking Associations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Technology Engagement Center.

Comments regarding FMCSA’s notice can be submitted here.

Both FMCSA 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. NHTSA also filed a notice earlier this week extending the comment period.

NHTSA’s notice 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. The notice includes 33 questions. Comments may be submitted until Aug. 28 using docket number NHTSA-2019-0036.

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.

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

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?

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.

A recent survey published by J.D. Power and Associates also suggests the American public are skeptical about the imminent deployment of autonomous vehicles.

According to a release published Tuesday, the company says consumers “lack confidence in the future of self-driving vehicles.” The release states that consumers who were surveyed expressed a low level of confidence in the future of self-driving vehicles. Scoring lowest among the self-driving attributes were: comfort about riding in a self-driving vehicle, and comfort about being on the road with others in a self-driving vehicle.

Associate Editor Mark Schremmer contributed to this report.

Greg Grisolano

Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.