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Self-driving trucks could lead to regulatory reform

New York roads could become safer when the U.S. trucking industry begins using autonomous vehicles, according to a report by the American Transportation Research Institute. However, the organization says many hurdles must be cleared before self-driving trucks are widely adopted by the industry.

First, issues such as infrastructure upgrades, maintenance, reliability and cyber security must be addressed. It is possible that regulations on driver fatigue and on-duty limits could be altered to reflect the realities of autonomous vehicles. For instance, the mandated 30-minute rest break, 14-hour on-duty limit and 11-hour drive time limit could all be done away with as self-driving trucks become standard in the industry.

According to the ATRI report, truck driving careers could become more attractive because automation could relieve the monotony of long hours on the road. For example, drivers may have the ability to work on logistics and other tasks while the truck is in motion. Meanwhile, the ability to rest while driving could cut down on drive times and allow truckers more time at home. The report also says self-driving trucks are expected to cut down on accidents caused by distracted driving and reduce congestion on U.S. roadways.

Semi truck accidents cause thousands of injuries and deaths across the U.S. each year. If, as is hoped, the advent of autonomous technology will reduce the number of these types of collisions, then the extra cost will be more than worth it. However, there will remain the possibility of a software glitch, which could result in the manufacturer or developer being found financially responsible if an occupant of another vehicle is injured in such an accident and the technology failure is successfully demonstrated by the plaintiff's attorney to have been the cause.

Source: Overdrive Online, "Autonomous trucks pave way for hours reform and more, but major roadblocks remain, says ATRI," James Jaillet, Nov. 17, 2016

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