An Article by FMCSA

The FMCSA has an article supporting the advancement of autonomous vehicles, the steps to get there and how would that affect regulations.  This is a very controversial topic. While it sounds wonderful for our crew not to have to worry about falling asleep during driving or failing to recognize when there is trouble on the road ahead, it is still worrisome that our roads will be filled with these tractor trailers who are fully navigated by a computer.  Why do we have to worry? Computers can fail due to weather, due to no internet connectivity, and most importantly they can be hacked. Do we want this kind of power in the hands of a hacker?

Further, the FMCSA states that autonomous trucks/vehicles will create jobs. Will it create enough jobs for those who are now replaced by this technology?  We will be setting aside any control we have to allow technology to overpower us to the point that many people in this industry will be now unemployed. Page 20 in the article ‘Preparing for the Future of Transportation’ (link found below) states that the vehicle would assume 1 human occupant who will be able to control the operation of the vehicle. However, it does not say how quickly the human can assume control of the vehicle in an emergency should their operating system malfunction.  

Credit: Tesla. Acceleration 0-60 mph with 80k lb in 20 sec

The Technology

Google has been researching and testing self-driving cars since 2009 as a moonshot project, and recently spun it off as a company called Waymo. Today, Waymo offers a self-driving car ride-hailing service in Phoenix, and this is only the tip of a huge iceberg. Waymo is licensing its technology to carmakers around the world with the purpose of creating a network of self-driving cars that will communicate and allow for safer and less congested roads. To see some of the technology that was put into it and how the computer views the road see this 15 min video Ted Talks.

The Truck Companies

So are Electric Autonomous Trucks are the future? If you ask large conglomerates like PACCAR, Volvo, Volkswagen, Cummins, and Waymo (Google) they’ll say, Yes. All of these companies have been working to deliver self-driving technology into the trucks of the near future. Where are they in the process? DAF has delivered its first all-electric truck to a customer as part of their test program, Daimler has already signed a deal with UPS for their smaller trucks, and Volvo was testing autonomous trucks in an underground mine in Sweden since 2016, as part of an initiative to demonstrate the technology as a means of improving both efficiency and safety in hazardous conditions.

Many startup companies are moving to change the trucking landscape as well. Tesla and Embark who have already demonstrated their electric truck can go coast-to-coast with ease, L.A based Nikola who are projected to hit the market in 2021, and Swedish company Einride who have been operational for some time working with grocery chains to hauling tree logs. Autonomous trucks are already in the making.


The Concerns

Today, the rise of connected cars and the inevitable future of automated cars have for some time being worrying regulators. However, most of the focus has been on preventing individual accidents, such as when a pedestrian was killed by a self-driving Uber in Arizona in 2018.

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have been looking into the implications of hacked self-driving cars. Skanda Vivek, a postdoctoral researcher in the Peter Yunker lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology, applied a mathematical and statistical approach to simulate such an event said “Compromised vehicles are unlike compromised data … collisions caused by compromise vehicles present physical danger to the vehicle’s occupants, and these disturbances would potentially have broad implications for overall traffic flow.” His research, which was presented during the 2019 American Physical Society March Meeting in Boston, shows that with 10%-20% of the cars in a city like Manhattan being hacked it could cause a gridlock where half the city became inaccessible from the rest.



It is hard and may even be impossible to stop progress and technology. We may need to learn how not only to live with it but also how to be careful with the implications to our daily lives, the impact to jobs and livelihood of millions of people, and in the end how to embrace it as something that is already happening. How would that impact you? How would that impact your colleges? your business? We would love to hear your opinion.

Link to the full article: