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Autonomous trucks and hours of service reform

During a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration session at the annual workshop held by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance in April, manned control for tractor-trailers was the main topic of discussion. Connecticut residents should also know that individuals who commented at the public forum also discussed hours reform as it relates to autonomous vehicle technology.

According to the deputy administrator of the FMCSA, the main purpose of the session was to make sure that regulations are able to provide the necessary standards for the safe operation of autonomous vehicles. The agency's objective is to work in conjunction with the development of the new technology, not to interfere with its progress.

Several commenters focused on the need to have a human being maintain control of vehicle. An example was provided by one speaker who referred to safety decisions that operators may have to make, such as an inescapable situation in which they have to choose whether to strike a brick wall or children in the middle of a crosswalk.

Supporters of the development of automated driver-assist technology believe that modifications to hours of service regulations would be a prime return on the carriers' investment. An expert in the industry states that private investments in Level 3 systems would increase if the hours of service would allow carriers to yield a higher return.

Although the further development of autonomous technology will likely serve to cut back on the number of semi truck collisions caused by truck driver fatigue, there will always be the chance that the software develops a glitch of some sort. When this happens, attorneys representing occupants of other vehicles who have been injured might pursue compensation from the developers under the theory of products liability.

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