Michael Ducker, the head of FedEx Freight, has called for federal regulations for autonomous trucking in the US, in the style of the rules currently in place for aviation.
According to Ducker, the main barrier to broad adoption of self-driving technology is regulation and social acceptance, rather than the technology itself. “It is coming faster than many people think,” Ducker told the Financial Times, “just because technology is advancing so rapidly.”
However, trucking companies such as FedEx Freight are pushing for standardised regulations at the federal level in the US, as state level regulations could make things too complicated.
At the same time, they want to avoid overregulation that might hinder development of the technology, and seek government investment in infrastructure—not just improved roads and highways, but also technology that would help vehicles to communicate with each other.
70% of goods in the US are shipped via trucks, generating over $700 billion in revenue every year. Trucking could be the first industry to take on self-driving technology on a wide scale, though Ducker insists that there would be a continued role for drivers, analogous to pilots in planes that use autopilot.
The US Department of Transportation is due to issue its first guidelines for self-driving trucks later this year. The government may also be opening up the 5.9GHz band in the radio spectrum, which could be used exclusively for vehicle communications.
(Source: Financial Times)