The US Department of Transportation has announced that it will “no longer assume” that the drivers of commercial trucks are human.
The statements are part of a 70-page document explaining the USDOT’s interpretation of the current laws and regulations that govern autonomous vehicles. Though it is not a “formal rulemaking,” automated vehicles industry analyst Richard Bishop says that “they’re saying, as far as federal law is concerned, you can do it [autonomous vehicles] now,” reported US News and World Report.
The document also states that the USDOT will “adapt the definitions of ‘driver’ and ‘operator’ to recognize that such terms [as ‘driver’] do not refer exclusively to a human but may in fact include an automated system.”
“It’s pretty significant,” added Bishop.
Experts say that driverless trucks could cut the cost of long-haul freight by reducing labor costs, but do not expect them to become commonplace until 2030, or even 2040, as safety concerns and a “strong skepticism from the driving public” may slow the otherwise speedy progress.
Though is seems that the federal government now supports the emergence of driverless trucks, the vagueness of the document’s language leaves many wondering how US regulators will interpret current laws that refer to a “driver” when those laws are applied to a situation involving an autonomous truck.
It is not yet clear whether the Trump administration will attempt to rework the current regulations that set different standards for autonomous and regular vehicles, or whether the standards will be merged into one.