Driverless vehicles could be available in 10-20 years, testifiers tell Congress

| November 20, 2013

How close are self-driving (autonomous) vehicles? 

They could be available to motorists in 10-20 years, according Rep. Tom Petri (D-Wis.), chairman of the House’s Highways and Transit Subcommittee, which heard testimony Nov. 19 on autonomous vehicles and what Congress should do to prepare.

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Robotic trucks set to push drivers out of a job?

According to some analysts, it could make good financial sense to fleets to switch early to self-driving trucks.

Michael Robinson, vice president of GM’s sustainability and global regulatory affairs, said based on that 10-20 year timeline, Congress should begin fostering an environment for driverless vehicles to be developed and implemented in the U.S. rather than other countries. 

He said lawmakers should begin preparing by addressing operating requirements, guidelines and standards. 

Petri said autonomous vehicles could improve safety, reduce congestion and allow more efficient use of the country’s infrastructure. 

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator David Strickland said when envisioning autonomous vehicles, people usually think of a car drives its passengers to a destination based on a simple command. 

That type of system, however, is “a significant distance into the future,” said Robinson. 

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Steven Ashley, writing for the BBC, gives a good update on recent testing of self-driving heavy-duty trucks, particularly a test of four trucks on an ...

Strickland even touched on commercial vehicles, even though the hearing concentrated almost exclusively on passenger vehicles, mentioning them in summarizing efforts by his agency to improve crashworthiness. 

Strickland said the Federal Highway Administration has been looking at ways to platoon commercial vehicles through Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control, which allows a vehicle to detect the speed of a vehicle in front of it and adjust speed accordingly. This type of technology, Strickland said, will “allow significant reductions in the headway between connected-automated vehicles with improved safety at highway speeds, greater use of existing lane capacity and improvements in fuel economy.” 

  • Mind Games

    Won’t work too many ways to take that race to the bottom corporate job killing beast out!
    I hope no one is stupid enough to think drivers are gonna watch their dreams be destroyed in THIS industry by THAT much greed.
    If so then rich folks and government officials really are so greedy that it makes them as stupid as I thought.
    Too many people are looking for jobs and ways to get rich and one of them bad boys really could break a truckng company and an insurance company real quick!
    I know many people who are experts at staging accidents and many many lawyers who are just waiting for one of those trucks to hit the streets it will be a bloodbath right inside the courthouse and the trucking company and insurance company will do the bleeding.
    Go a head you greedy S.O.B’s I dare ya!!!

  • Tx_Ghost

    I could see them being more like autopilots than fully automated. Might make things easier in long stretches like 70 between Green River, UT and Selina, UT or Casper, Wy to North Platte, NE. Or Maybe when stuck in traffic on the 5 anywhere near LA it could relieve some of the stress.

  • horseman

    i hate to say this, but like it or not, the day will come, and it will be mainly the truck driver that pushes it, we have sooo many baby truck drivers ( inexperienced) out here attempting to do the job of an experienced driver, and doing it for less money, and causeing more accidents. thats the reason for the push. If drivers were better, then there wouldn’t be a need for the robots to drive, aside the fact that the other reason is greed. no one has to pay a robot. I just can’t see a robot being anywhere as good as a human. we will have the movie Terminator become real at this rate. lol

  • Keith

    I think that peoples’ impatience will frustrate auto drivers, because their cars will not speed, or get them “there” in a hurry when they “need” that, so how will ‘self-driving’ vehicles (which will probably require manual overrides) affect their state of minds?
    Will road rage become a greater mental issue, and thus affect “their” perfect system; a hackers delight.
    What about the fears of people who would rather drive more slowly – will we remove their choice of driving style? Or those who want to see the sights? Will our vehicles read our minds?
    Will Obama be able to turn us off at will, or will the computer system be as perfect as healthcare?
    And what about deadlines when we simply see our trucks sitting in traffic and “being good drivers”, when time sensitive loads must arrive at a specific time?
    I see a few reasons to allow the most perfect computer in creation to remain in charge of our vehicles for just a little longer.

  • Jim Kennedy

    I’ll buy the driverless trucks about the same time as robotic managers and ceo’s.

  • Shawn L Hubbard

    I don’t buy the excuses and blaming of new drivers for all of our woes. The industry has always been filled with new drivers since trucks were invented. If a rush of new drivers were the problem, truck accident rates would not have declined over recent years. I know there is a fear that robots will take over truck driving jobs. I think it’s just that, fear. Unless every shipper and receiver in the country rebuilds its warehousing to accommodate driverless trucks, you still need drivers to unload trucks, safeguard freight in the street when the customer has no parking available on their property. Think about all the mom and pop stores, convenience stores and small markets truckers deliver to that could never afford to retrofit. Think about drop and hooks, how does a robotic truck secure a parked trailer with a pin lock or chock trailer tires. I think we might get some sort of assisted driving where the truck monitors traffic and slows down or speeds up accordingly but truck drivers aren’t going anywhere.

  • michael k

    lol Putting all the ‘former drivers’ and excess ‘four-wheelers’ in FEMA forced labor “education camps’ first would certainly make clearing the highways for this much more feasible!

    WHAT A PLAN!

  • Wayne

    Then you will see this headline:
    “20 driverless trucks filled with various chemicals and fertilizers all rammed into the (insert and state name here) capitol bldg. today killing everyone within a 5 mile radius and contaminating every waterway in the area within 500 miles. So far no one has been held responsible, although one of the truck’s computers has been recovered and malicious code was found on it’s hard drive. The state’s representatives will be gathering in two days to mourn the loss of its citizens and the President is flying to give a speech”
    Driverless vehicles will still have to have a human behind the wheel for all kinds of reasons. But this one is never talked about on ANY of these articles and “testimony”.

  • BillyJack

    Damn son don’t go roostering about all this, pro’s move in silence

  • Russell Simmons

    Everywhere you turn people are being subtracted from the revenue equation and replaced by “improved” technology and rendered obsolete. Those drivers like folks in other fields are small business owners and employees that are doing what they can to take care of financial responsibilities. It is difficult to do when you are replaced by technology. It seems that caring about each others well being becomes obsolete also……because the technology is more efficient than people? By the way we ALL were babies/ new drivers and we all have the same basic needs. Travel safe.

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