USDOT & The Future of Self-Driving Semi Trucks

The United States Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and FMCSA proposed on May 21st their rule-making on regulations to safely introduce automated driving systems (ADS). They’re currently seeking public comments on what approaches to propose to address potential challenges.

The U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao says, “One of the Department’s priorities is to prepare for the future by engaging with new technology while addressing legitimate public concerns about safety, security, and privacy, without hampering innovation.” While some of us speculate the results of self-driving semi trucks, Tesla released on November 16, 2017 a Tesla Semi prototype by Jerome Guillen who’s also the former Model S Program Director and VP of Vehicle Engineering at Tesla. However, a year and a half later on April 25, 2019 Tesla announced that they will be delaying their electronic semi truck production. Although Tesla isn’t the only company manufacturing self driving semi trucks, there are many laws and regulations that have to pass for these trucks to be fully compliant on the road, not only with state but federal too.

In an article written by the U.S Department of Transportation, Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicle 3.0, the DOT included a letter from Elaine L. Chao. The letter summarized many benefits the economy will have if automated vehicles were to hit the road.

Along with potential benefits, however, automation brings new challenges that need to be addressed. The public has legitimate concerns about the safety, security, and privacy of automated technology. So I have challenged Silicon Valley and other innovators to step up and help address these concerns and help inform the public about the benefits of automation.

Chao wrote this in 2018, and nearly two years later the FMCSA and DOT are moving faster in the direction of having a future with self driving semi-trucks.

The FMCSA is seeking public comments to further develop its rules to account for both human drivers and the future of self driving semi trucks. The questions focus on topics such as: HOS rules, requirements of human drivers, CDL endorsements, medical qualifications, distracted/safe driving, inspections, roadside inspections, repair, maintenance, and cybersecurity. There will be a 60-day comment period ending on July 20, 2019. The FMCSA is strongly encouraging public feedback, if you’d like to leave a comment please go here, all the requirements are listed on the FMCSA website.