December 03, 2020

Challenges For The Autonomous Trucking Industry

For several years, major companies have predicted that autonomous vehicles (AVs) would soon be taking over the roads, but for the past year, corporate representatives have admitted they may have overpromised. AVs often fail to accurately anticipate what drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are going to do next, so some members of the autonomous industry have shifted their focus to situations that are relatively more controlled: commercial vehicles on highways. Autonomous trucks (ATs) could surpass other AVs in technological development, but developers and advocates of ATs will confront significant challenges in making their use prevalent.

Partners Elsa Bullard and Patrick Reilly and associates Michael Jaeger and Emanuel McMiller authored a two-part article series for Law360 that discusses the landscape of the AT industry titled “Challenges For The Autonomous Trucking Industry.”

In part one of the series, the authors described the two main methods for operating ATs — the hybrid-driverless approach and platooning. The authors also explained the two main pushbacks to ATs — job security for truck drivers and road safety concerns — and how the AT industry can combat these negative perceptions.

The authors highlighted that the AT industry may be able to garner support by bringing awareness to the cost savings ATs can offer and how ATs can combat climate change. Additionally, trucking companies will still need human drivers for city streets and people to load and unload trucks, which may provide more stable, healthy and balanced jobs to the workers.

In part two of the series, the authors detailed the legislative and regulatory uncertainty facing the AT industry at the federal and state level. The United States Congress has attempted to work on legislation to help advance the testing and development of AVs but none of them include ATs, leaving ATs to operate under differing state regulatory policies, which is problematic because of the interstate nature of the trucking industry.

The authors addressed how the AT industry may work to overcome these the roadblocks so they can continue to progress, including advocating for lifting the 10,000-pound limitation on future proposed legislation aimed at the advancement of AV technology, arguing for separate, comprehensive federal regulations specific to ATs, and testing and operating in states with the most permissive laws.


Here is the link for Part 1 of the Law360 article.

Here is the link for Part 2 of the Law360 article.

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