Why automated vehicle technology holds enormous potential — for truckers and the motoring public

ATA President and CEO testified before a Senate committee yesterday on the potential of automated truck safety technology, as the committee prepares legislation to regulate the testing & deployment of automated vehicles.

Spear made the case for why autonomous vehicle technology holds enormous potential for the trucking industry, its drivers and the motoring public.

With 94% of highway accidents attributed to human error, the successful deployment of AV technology can drastically reduce fatalities on the road. Moreover, the technology can deliver significant returns by reducing traffic congestion, improving driver productivity and decreasing emissions through lower fuel burn.

“I hope my testimony will help unwind some of the myths about automation and our industry, and will demonstrate why trucking needs to be at the table as the roadmap for automated vehicles is being written.”

Here are some key moments and takeaways from the hearing:

“Autonomous” does not mean “driverless.” What we are talking about is “driver-assist” technology.

AV technology has the potential to dramatically expand the skillets of drivers and technicians, making them more marketable across other sectors and industries, and ushering in a new generation of talent for trucking.

An analogy can be drawn between AV technology for truckers and autopilot technology used by airplane pilots.

In providing recommendations to the Committee and the regulatory agencies it oversees, Spear drove home three major points:

· The federal government must have sole authority to regulate AV technology. As trucks cross state lines countless times daily, the rules of the road must be the same across the country in order to maintain interstate commerce and facilitate the free flow of goods.

· Federal agencies must commit to supporting innovation for BOTH commercial and passenger vehicles. We all share the road, and the deployment of autonomous vehicles for both the commercial sector and automotive sector should be seamless.

· Federal agencies must coordinate their missions with respect to automated vehicles. This technology would be greatly enhanced by vehicle connectivity using the 5.9 GHz spectrum, fully unlocking its potential to improve safety and reduce traffic congestion.

Bottom line: The innovation taking place today will drive this process.

It is essential that Congress and regulators create a legal framework that enables innovation to continue at all levels of autonomous vehicle technology, so that commercial fleets, professional drivers and the motoring public can reap the benefits.