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ICYMI: Self-Driving Trucks Get Closer to Hitting the Road

In case you missed it, I wanted to share this Law 360 article with you. Published last month, Lawrence Hamilton, David Whitestone and Joel Roberson of Holland & Knight LLP explore the future of autonomous commercial trucks in “Self-Driving Trucks Get Closer to Hitting the Road.” Covering recent developments, potential impacts, safety benefits and other considerations, this piece provides a comprehensive look at the SELF Drive Act, reasoning against autonomous commercial vehicles (ACV) and the subsequent counterarguments.

As the authors discuss, the SELF Drive Act, which recently passed the House of Representatives, will amend “definitions relevant to the development and use of autonomous vehicles (AV),” but distinctly excludes commercial vehicles. This is to address the concerns surrounding the potential impact on employment in the industry and the more than 3 million truck drivers currently on the road. While displacement is an obvious and valid concern, Hamilton, Whitestone and Roberson point out that the safety benefits incorporated into autonomous vehicle technology will likely drive favorable debate surrounding ACVs. Poignantly they describe the inevitable introduction of AVs and ACVs to our roadways, “although politics are in play, and many technical and other issues remain to be solved before fully autonomous commercial vehicles will be operating on our roads without drivers, sharing the road with autonomous vehicles — including commercial trucks — is inevitable. Prepare to buckle up.”

North Carolina is in a unique position as this debate wages on, given the state’s status as one of the few pilot sites designated by the Department of Transportation for autonomous vehicle testing. As Steve Kuciemba, national intelligent transportation systems practice leader at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, discussed during our 2017 Transportation and Infrastructure Conference, this technology is coming fast and it’s important to begin incorporating autonomous vehicles into long-term transportation planning. The impact AVs will have on transit is vast, from changes in cost structures and safety applications to advanced travel planning and improved intermodal coordination – just to name a few. It’s exciting that North Carolina is at the forefront of this technological advancement, as innovation and infrastructure are critical components to securing North Carolina’s prosperous future. Given our state’s current position and the significance of this rapidly evolving technology, the NC Chamber Foundation intends to commission a study on autonomous vehicles next year. I look forward to bringing you more information on AVs and the study as the project progresses.

Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber