FMCSA planning study on driver involvement in autonomous trucks

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced they will be carrying out a driving simulator study. This study will come with a series of questionnaires that will assess how commercial vehicle

drivers engage with the systems associated with automated driving. Autonomous trucks, while technically driverless, will have system experts behind the screens that are able to troubleshoot and see what the vehicles are doing.

The FMCSA was motivated by their sister agency, NHTSA, looking into the autonomous-truck crash at TuSimple company. Overdrive reported that a truck driven by TuSimple’s autonomous technology collided with a concrete jersey barrier on an Arizona interstate on April 6. The TuSimple truck was the only vehicle involved in the accident. TuSimple said the crash was caused by an error of the human operators inside the cab at the time.

“A human error occurred when two operators in a TuSimple vehicle incorrectly reengaged the autonomous driving mode without completing all of the steps necessary to safely reengage, resulting in the truck scraping a median,” the company said. “Fortunately, no one was injured, there was no property damage, and the only visible sign of the incident was a minor scrape on the truck.”

The FMCSA has set about 100 drivers to participate in this study examining the impact of non-driving secondary task management, transfer of control, and training on driver behavior in trucks equipped with Automated Driving Systems (ADS) technology.

The FMCSA made this a Federal Register notice and they said Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Level 2 (L2) and Level 3 (L3) automated driving systems “present an environment that is ripe for overreliance.” Level 2 ADS trucks offer support to the driver, but the driver is still responsible for driving at all times. “At this level, engaging in non-driving secondary tasks can be highly detrimental to driving performance, as the driver may not recognize and respond to hazards timely or appropriately,” FMCSA noted.