The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is asking stakeholders for further comments about potential autonomous vehicle regulations, including whether companies should have to show safety management controls are in place.
The renewed effort came through a Federal Register notice published Wednesday, which asks industry stakeholders to submit comments by March 20 regarding highly and fully automated commercial vehicles equipped with automated driving systems — an area that has traditionally been regulated by states.
The agency's focus on level 4 and 5 automated driving systems is because the tech at those stages can "control all aspects of the dynamic driving task without any expectation of an intervention from a human driver,” the notice said.
“The focus of this notice is Level 4 and 5 ADS-equipped CMVs because it is only at those levels that an ADS can control all aspects of the dynamic driving task without any expectation of an intervention from a human driver,” the notice said.
Input could help the agency determine whether it should issue a federal rule to require carriers to submit info, data, documentation or other evidence to begin using highly and fully automated vehicles.
Additionally, the notice asks stakeholders to comment on:
- Whether additional inspection requirements would be appropriate, given AVs’ ability to operate continuously;
- Whether carriers operating these vehicles should have to notify the agency before operating them in interstate commerce without a human driver behind the wheel; and
- The current size of highly automated tractors in carriers’ fleets and expected number they will have in five and 10 years.
Comments on these and other questions will help the agency “assess benefits, costs, and other impacts of any potential proposal issued later,” according to the notice.
The agency has sought industry feedback on the emerging technology in the past. In 2019, various stakeholders, including Embark Trucks, Kodiak Robotics and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, agreed motor carriers should notify the FMCSA if they’re operating commercial vehicles equipped with automated driving systems.
The federal government has already been moving toward more regulation in the autonomous trucking space. In June 2021, for example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration made an order that requires operators to report crashes involving autonomous vehicles. The order is in effect until June 2024. The agency also clarified last year that AVs must provide the same kind of occupant protection that existing vehicles have.
The moves come as the Department of Transportation pursues a long-term goal to bring vehicle-related fatalities to zero.
“The Department has continued engagement with key transportation stakeholders to develop a national policy framework to facilitate the safe integration of ADS technology, as well as other emerging technologies, into the transportation system,” the AV comment notice also said. “Prioritizing safety while supporting the power of innovation to transform transportation for the better are central to the Department's approach.”