A new law in Michigan is intended to benefit driver-assistive truck platooning technology. The concept uses a lead truck to control the speed and braking of following trucks.
Advocates say truck platooning will save fuel because of reduced aerodynamic drag, lessen traffic congestion, and improve highway safety. Some supporters acknowledge it will work best on relatively flat, divided highways outside of populated areas.
Critics question how automated vehicles and traditional vehicles will interact on roadways. Others doubt whether widespread use of the technology is realistic.
Regulations in the way
In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center reports that Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations are likely to get in the way of automated technology.
During the past three years more than a dozen states have taken action to permit testing of autonomous trucks. The rule changes often require amendments to large vehicle following distance rules.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed into law a bill to revise the state’s following-too-closely rule.
State law already requires that platooning trucks accommodate other vehicles attempting to change lanes or exit the highway. Specifically, platooning trucks must “allow reasonable access” for vehicles to maneuver around them.
The rule change in HB5749 retains the provision, but includes an amendment to specify that affected trucks traveling on a highway in a platoon would be exempt from the state’s minimum distance following rule.
“Michigan is a powerhouse of technology for autonomous vehicles throughout the country,” stated Rep. Michael Webber, R-Rochester Hills. “Vehicle platooning increases the safety of self-driving vehicles on Michigan roads and enhances the transportation of goods and services.”
He added that the change would enhance the transportation of goods in a safe manner.
Critics said they could not support legislation that lacks research on the safety of self-driving technology.
Other states to act
States to enact rule changes this year that address truck platooning on roadways include Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wisconsin. The changes in each state focus on granting exemptions to platooning trucks from following distances rules for large vehicles.
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