There have been claims that autonomous technology will improve road safety and result in financial gains, however the overall benefits are being debated, given that drivers may become redundant.
A US Senate Committee hearing recently heard from Navistar International chairman and CEO Troy Clarke recently calling for clear legislative and regulatory outlines for vehicle manufacturers to design and test autonomous technology, to ensure safety when the technology is picked up by the larger market.
The hearing underway is focused on the benefits of automated technology to trucks, buses and other heavy vehicles on the highway. The hearing Transportation Innovation: “Automated Trucks and our Nation’s Highways”, is also looking into the effect this technology will have on the job market and economy.
Mr Clarke urged the US authorities not to leave out commercial vehicles in legislation to establish federal regulatory standards for autonomous vehicles. He was quoted in a post on Fullyloaded.com.au as saying,
“Autonomous technology is an extension of the safety technology already in place today, and we believe greater levels of self-driving technology will help reduce human error, which today accounts for 94 per cent of all motor vehicle accidents,” Clarke says.
“This technology can help support the driver to create a better driving experience and make our roads safer.”
He went on to state that the interests of all stakeholders would benefit from the combination of regulation and technology.
“As federal regulations are being drafted and implemented, we want to ensure that passenger and commercial vehicles are following similar safety and design standards for optimal compatibility,” he says.
Closer to home, the NTC (National Transport Commission) has been given the responsibility of developing a reform for automated vehicles to safely and legally operate on Australian roads by 2020, with national guidelines for trials recently being released by the NTC and Austroads.
A pertinent question remains, what will the role of the driver become when automated vehicles are adopted.
According to Mr Clarke, the role of the driver will be important, requiring them to be more skilled and trained to be able to manage multiple vehicles, he says to ensure safety and efficiency.
“As we develop technologies that could lead to completely autonomous vehicles, we will make many of them available to provide today’s drivers with greater ease of use, comfort, safety, productivity and efficiency – factors that, we believe, will attract more people to this important and noble profession,” Clarke says.
Despite Mr Clarke’s comments that drivers roles would be important, there have been concerns highlighted by a study, for the livelihoods of drivers.
The study, conducted by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, International Transport Workers’ Federation, International Road Transport Union and the International Transport Forum found that millions of European and American truck drivers may become redundant by the year 2030 if the driver-less trucks are implemented at the current momentum.