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February 08, 2023
FMCSA seeks more input on autonomous trucks

On February 1, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requested additional input on regulatory changes necessary for the introduction of highly and fully automated commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) on the nation’s roadways (88 Fed. Reg. 6691).

The supplemental advance notice of proposed rulemaking (SANPRM) revisits issues beyond those covered in advance notices of proposed rulemaking issued May 28, 2019 (84 Fed. Reg. 24433, 24449).

SAE International defines six levels of driving automation: SAE Level 0 through SAE Level 5. SAE Levels 0–3 utilize “driver-assist” technologies ranging from automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, and lane departure warning to lane centering and adaptive cruise control. SAE Level 3 involves automated driving but may require a driver to operate the vehicle. SAE Level 4 and 5 vehicles may not even have pedals or steering wheels. Level 5 vehicles are designed for fully autonomous operation everywhere in all driving conditions.

The FMCSA’s February 1 notice is focused on Level 4 and 5 CMVs.

The agency has questions about how motor carriers should notify the FMCSA when they operate autonomous CMVs, qualifications for remote assistants, and inspection and maintenance requirements for Level 4 and 5 CMVs.

Questions include:

  • Should the agency require motor carriers to notify the FMCSA before operating a vehicle in interstate commerce without a human driver?
  • If so, what methods or procedures should the agency require for notification?
  • What data should the FMCSA collect and retain regarding Level 4 or 5 Automated Driving Systems (ADS)-equipped CMVs used in interstate transportation?
  • How large are Level 4 or 5 ADS-equipped fleets? How large are fleets likely to be in 5 years?
  • Because remote assistants are not expected to operate Level 4 or 5 vehicles, what qualifications should the agency require of them?
  • What should the agency’s requirements be for minimum standards, auditing, physical qualifications, training, and other job performance-related measures for remote assistants?
  • Should there be qualification requirements for remote assistants, such as related experience or holding a commercial driver’s license?
  • Should the agency impose requirements for remote assistant working conditions, such as limiting the number of CMVs a remote assistant may be responsible for or limiting a remote assistant’s working hours?
  • Should Level 4 or 5 ADS-equipped CMVs be subject to pretrip inspection requirements for their mechanical and ADS components?
  • Roadside vehicle inspections typically require interaction with a human driver. The agency asked what approaches exist or could be developed for conducting roadside inspections of Level 4 or 5 ADS-equipped CMVs.
  • What pretrip inspection requirements, documentation, and communications capability should be imposed on motor carriers operating Level 4 and 5 ADS-equipped CMVs?
  • What communication systems exist that would allow roadside inspection officers to receive information regarding Level 4 or 5 ADS-equipped CMVs, and what information could be transmitted via such systems regarding the mechanical condition of the CMV and other operational documentation (such as shipping documents and vehicle origin and destination) while en route?
  • Because ADS-equipped CMVs could feasibly operate continually, should Level 4 or 5 ADS-equipped CMVs be subject to additional inspection requirements for the mechanical or ADS components of the vehicles?

Comments are due to the FMCSA on March 20.

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