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U.S. Harmonises Regulations to Ease the Introduction of Autonomous Freight Transportation

By modernising regulations and encouraging a consistent regulatory environment across all states, the US Department of Transportation hopes to ease the introduction of autonomous freight transportation [1].

As of October 2018, autonomous vehicles are one step closer to being more commonly seen on the US roads as the US Department of Transportation (DOT) published Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicle 3.0 (AV3.0). It could be seen as an acknowledgement for the potential of autonomation within the freight transportation sector. The aim is to modernise regulations to diminish barriers for autonomous vehicles, but also to encourage a harmonised regulatory environment across states.

Laws that are subject to be modified concern, for instance, the vehicle following distance, as these could hamper platooning applications. Autonomous vehicle developers are optimistic that this, combined with other initiatives, will ease the process of getting the autonomous technology established. According to Chuck Price, Chief Product Officer at the US and China-based company TuSimple, the perhaps biggest obstacle to a roll-out of self-driving vehicles across the US are the regulatory matters. Today it is a patchwork, he explains.

Even though the government has said it will do what it takes to make self-driving trucks a reality it is aware that the technological challenges should not be underestimated. Much remains to be done, especially regarding identifying and deal with rare but safety-critical corner cases. In the end, it is up to the developers to prove that the technology is ready but with the DOT’s AV3.0 the government, who has the final say, is on board.


Personal comments

Modern and harmonised regulations may certainly speed up the rollout process of autonomous fright transportation vehicles once the technology is proven reliable. However, it may not, and perhaps should not ease the present and primary obstacles that the developers have to overcome which is the technical challenges required for safety. It also seems like a very reasonable move to include autonomous freight into the general AV legislature since autonomous freight transportation will likely be the first instance of large-scale autonomous vehicles on our roads.


Written by Oscar Enerbäck, RISE Viktoria.



1. 2019-04-17. US gives self-driving trucks the green light.