Author: Vitaliy Dadalyan

15 Aug by Vitaliy Dadalyan Tags:

What Does the Tesla Accident Mean for Autonomous Vehicle Development?

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Even when autonomous technologies handle the steering, as in Freightliner's Inspiration Truck demonstrated last year in Nevada, drivers need to be ready to take back control. Photo: Deborah Lockridge


Even when autonomous technologies handle the steering, as in Freightliner's Inspiration Truck demonstrated last year in Nevada, drivers need to be ready to take back control. Photo: Deborah Lockridge


On a bright sunny day in early May, a “beta test” autonomous “autopilot” feature on a Tesla S sedan failed to “see” a white semitrailer, failed to brake and ran under the trailer as it turned in front of the car at an intersection. The accident killed the driver, making it the first fatal crash of an autonomous car in the United States.

The crash emphasized the fact that autonomous technologies are no longer the stuff of science fiction, and intensified a debate about the safety of “self-driving” vehicles that also could affect the future of autonomous technologies in commercial trucks.

Daimler Trucks has for the last several years been steadily advancing its research on autonomous commercial vehicles, and in fact last month unveiled an autonomous city bus. Peterbilt has pursued its own direction on what it calls “driver assist” technologies, and both Peterbilt and Volvo are involved in tests of truck platooning, which many in the industry view as the first practical use of some of these autonomous technologies.

And now Tesla founder Elon Musk wants to get in on the commercial vehicle arena, as well. Last month he revealed a “master plan” that includes trucks, buses and ride sharing. In a blog posted on the automaker's website, he says heavy-duty electric trucks are in the early stages of development and should be ready for unveiling next year.

But we're not just talking about an electric truck — we're talking about a self-driving one as well.

“As the technology matures, all Tesla vehicles will have the hardware necessary to be fully self-driving with fail-operational capability,” Musk wrote.

Not ready for prime time?

One question about automated vehicle technology, whether in a car or a truck, is what level of involvement is required by the driver, and the issue of how alert he or she will be of the need to take over when the autonomous technologies disengage.

In a blog post, Tesla explained that the autopilot feature in its Model S cars is “still in a public beta phase.” Contrary to videos posted by users, drivers are not supposed to be operating entirely hands-free. In the case of the fatal Tesla accident, the truck driver reported that he saw the car driver watching what he believed to be a movie on the in-cab screen.

“When drivers activate Autopilot, the acknowledgment box explains, among other things, that Autopilot ‘is an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times,' and that ‘you need to maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle' while using it,” Tesla said.

A spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety called the crash “a warning that drivers need to be vigilant, even if a self-driving feature is engaged. It also serves as a notice that these autonomous vehicles are not just around the corner as something we can buy,” Russ Rader said.

Tesla's Musk cautioned in unveiling the second part of his master plan that autonomy is still in its early stages.

“It is important to emphasize that refinement and validation of the software will take much longer than putting in place the cameras, radar, sonar and computing hardware … Even once the software is highly refined and far better than the average human driver, there will still be a significant time gap, varying widely by jurisdiction, before true self-driving is approved by regulators.”

Musk said he expects it will take some 6 billion miles of experience with this technology before you see worldwide regulatory approval. Currently we're accumulating that experience at just over 3 million miles a day, he noted.

So why is Tesla deploying partial autonomy now?

“The most important reason is that, when used correctly, it is already significantly safer than a person driving by themselves, and it would therefore be morally reprehensible to delay release simply for fear of bad press or some mercantile calculation of legal liability,” Musk writes.

“According to the recently released 2015 NHTSA report, automotive fatalities increased by 8% to one death every 89 million miles. Autopilot miles will soon exceed twice that number and the system gets better every day. It would no more make sense to disable Tesla's Autopilot, as some have called for, than it would to disable autopilot in aircraft, after which our system is named.”

Regulatory movement

At the fifth annual Automated Vehicles Symposium in San Francisco last month, government officials promised that new regulatory guidelines involving automated vehicles are imminent.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told the audience that the Department of Transportation will issue guidelines this summer on “highly automated vehicles.”

“We want people who start a trip to finish it,” Foxx said, according to published reports.

While the DOT has been working with companies that are developing automated vehicles to adapt existing safety rules to these new technology, Foxx said those existing rules are not enough.

“We need clear lines of responsibility between industry, government and consumers,” he said.

Foxx acknowledged that “autonomous vehicles are coming,” whether the world is “ready or not,” reported, which also quoted him as saying, “We don't want to replace crashes with human factors with large numbers of crashes caused by systems.”

While there are many reasons why the industry is moving toward autonomous vehicles, Foxx said, “if safety isn't at the very top of the list, we're not going to get very far.”

At that same conference, National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator Mark Rosekind, in prepared remarks, said that, “Of course we have to do everything we can to make sure new technology does not introduce new safety risks, but we also can't stand idly by while we wait for the perfect.”

In fact, Rosekind pointed out, the DOT “has been exceptionally forward-leaning on automated vehicles,” noting that on several locations he has commented on the irony of hearing that the federal government is moving too fast.

Why? Echoing Musk's comments, he cited the numbers of highway fatalities. More than 35,000 people lost their lives on American roads last year, he said, the equivalent of a 747 crashing every week. And 94% of those are attributed to human error. Whether that's driving drunk, speeding, or trying to catch Pokemon behind the wheel, he said, “if there was a way to account for all those human choices or behaviors, we would be talking about a world where we could potentially prevent or mitigate 19 of every 20 crashes on the road.

“That is the promise of automated vehicles, and that is, at its core, why NHTSA and the Department of Transportation have been so focused on doing what we can to accelerate the lifesaving promise of highly automated vehicles and connected vehicles.”

Safety advocacy groups, however, wrote a letter to Rosekind saying NHTSA should stop pushing the adoption of “robot car technology” until more testing is done and enforceable safety standards are written. Public Citizen, the Center for Auto Safety, and Consumer Watchdog said they were “dumbfounded” that the Tesla crash did not give the agency pause. They charged Rosekind and his colleagues with becoming “giddy advocates of self-driving cars, instead of sober safety regulators tasked with ensuring that new systems don't kill people. Instead of seeking a recall of Tesla's flawed technology, you inexcusably are rushing full speed ahead.”

Related: NTSB Confirms Tesla Was Speeding When It Hit That Trailer

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15 Aug by Vitaliy Dadalyan Tags:

Navisphere Carrier App is Available for iOS and Android

C.H. Robinson has released the Navisphere Carrier app, designed to support contract motor carriers and their business.

The new app is expected to support more than 15,000 current users of the company's former app CHRWTrucks and provide access to the thousands of loads C.H. Robinson books on a daily basis.

The app improves the functionality of C.H. Robinson's platform, Navisphere, allowing carriers to support supply chains and is connected to the company's carrier representatives who work with contract carriers. The app is available for Apple and Android mobile devices offering accessibility, increased connectivity to drivers, expanded planning capabilities and expedited payment processes.

“With the streamlined workflow we provide through the Navisphere Carrier mobile app, we expect to help our contract carriers reduce the amount of time they spend booking loads and submitting updates,” said Kevin Abbott, vice president of North American surface transportation, truckload. “Through this app, we are helping contract carriers find and secure loads more quickly, thereby helping them meet their business goals.”

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15 Aug by Vitaliy Dadalyan Tags:

American Central Transport Names Next President

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Phil Wilt Photo: American Central Transport

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Phil Wilt Photo: American Central Transport

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American Central Transport COO Phil Wilt will take on the title of president, replacing Tom Kretsinger, who's dropping president from his title as president/CEO and becoming chairman of the board and CEO.

The Liberty, Mo.-based dry van truckload carrier serves the eastern U.S.

“Phil has done an outstanding job as our COO and making him president will expand his leadership to the entire company," said Kretsinger. "We at ACT are used to change, and it's one of the things that make us strong. It's the team that counts and our team is the best in trucking."

Wilt joined ACT in 2006 as senior vice president of human resources and safety and was promoted to chief operating officer in 2014. He holds a BS degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in economics and education.

"Our management team has been working for a long time to achieve our company's goals for success and I look forward to continuing our progress in the days ahead," said Wilt.

Related: ACT Raises Pay for Company Drivers and Owner Operators

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15 Aug by Vitaliy Dadalyan Tags:

AT&T Launches Telematics Solution for Commercial Fleets

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Photo courtesy of AT&T Partner Exchange.


Photo courtesy of AT&T Partner Exchange.


AT&T is rolling out a GPS-based fleet, asset and mobile workforce solution designed to help commercial fleets and other business customers track and manage vehicles, high-value assets, and mobile workers, AT&T announced.

AT&T will offer AT&T Fleet Complete through its Partner Exchange platform in a partnership with Toronto-based Fleet Complete, a Canadian telematics vendor.

"With AT&T Fleet Complete, solution providers can tap into new ways to address real business issues for their customers, such as improving fleet utilization, reducing fuel costs, increasing productivity and maintaining compliance," said Sue Galvanek, vice president of marketing, pricing and product solutions for AT&T Partner Exchange.

AT&T Fleet Complete is a prepackaged solution offering five options for customers, including fleet tracking, asset tracking, hours of service, dispatch, and resource tracking.

The Fleet Tracker provides near real-time fleet and vehicle diagnostic data to help businesses reduce fuel, insurance, maintenance and other related costs. It can also help reduce their carbon footprint.

The Assest Tracker manages high-value assets and includes a rechargeable battery-based hardware.

The House of Service product automates a driver's logbook, helping with FMCSA compliance. The Dispatch offering tracks and helps manage mobile workers. When paired with AT&T Enhanced Push-to-Talk, it offers improved dispatch communication.

The Resource Tracker helps keep track of a business' workforce through a cloud-based app. The mobile solution lets dispatchers send activities to mobile workers based on geographical position and workload, which can save time and money.

"We trialed AT&T Fleet Complete earlier this year and couldn't be more excited to have access to this solution," said Douglas Riewski, VP of Business Development, Pavo Communications. "Using it with AT&T Enhanced Push-to-Talk is a homerun for our business. This is the type of innovation we look to AT&T Partner Exchange to deliver to help us keep our customers happy and maintain our edge."

AT&T Fleet Complete is just one of several program additions that AT&T Partner Exchange has recently made to help accelerate solution providers' success with mobility. AT&T also offers its AT&T Fleet Manager solution to government fleets in a partnership with BSM Technologies' Webtech Wireless unit.

Related: AT&T Simulates Distracted Driving

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15 Aug by Vitaliy Dadalyan Tags:

OOIDA Fires Back on ELD Rule Ahead of September Court Hearing

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Photo: Omnitracs

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Photo: Omnitracs

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The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has filed a reply brief to the government's arguments defending its controversial electronic logging mandate in the association's lawsuit, scheduled to be heard by a federal court next month.

OOIDA is seeking an injunction to halt the implementation of the rule.

Friday, Aug. 12, OOIDA filed a reply brief in the suit, originally filed last December only a day after the final rule was published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The reply brief is a legal precursor to oral arguments on Sept. 13.OOIDA's case hinges on five arguments:

  • The devices as mandated are unable to do the job as prescribed.
  • The rule offers no protection against harassment of drivers.
  • The benefits of the rule do not outweigh the costs
  • They erode drivers' Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures
  • Driver privacy is not protected
  • The ELD mandate affects an estimated 3 million interstate drivers of vehicles manufactured after model year 2000. By December 2017, drivers will have to replace paper logbooks with electronic devices.

    The association previously challenged a similar mandate in August 2011 and the court ruled in favor of OOIDA's arguments that the previous rule did not protect drivers against harassment. FMCSA went back to the drawing board to rewrite the rule in a way that would address the court's concerns.

    With this track record of derailing mandatory e-logs once before, the association is confident it can do it again.

    In June, FMCSA forcefully defended the ELD rule in a brief that it was required to submit to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. In that brief, FMCSA argued that the ELD rule is constitutional as it does not violate the Fourth Amendment prohibition of unreasonable searches; that the mandate does not impinge on drivers' rights to privacy, and that its cost-benefit analysis “amply supports” the rulemaking.

    The reply brief filed by OOIDA Friday is in response to FMCSA's brief. According to an article on the website of association magazine Land Line, the brief counters the agency's arguments thus:

    1. Do ELDs do what they're supposed to do? In the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) highway bill, Congress directed FMCSA to “prescribe regulations … requiring that a commercial motor vehicle … be equipped with an electronic logging device … capable of recording a driver's hours of service and duty status accurately and automatically.”

    However, OOIDA says ELDs as mandated don't do this, because they can't automatically track non-driving on-duty time.

    2. Does the law protect against driver harassment? This is the key issue that OOIDA used to prevail in its 2011 lawsuit, and the association says the agency still has not addressed this issue satisfactorily, despite an express prohibition on driver harassment, with civil penalties for violations and a procedure for drivers to file written complaints of harassment by a carrier.

    “FMCSA takes the position that it is not required to address all instances of harassment, but only those related to HOS violations, and then only harassment perpetrated by motor carriers,” the OOIDA brief states.

    3. Do they save more than they cost? OOIDA's suit claims FMCSA has no proof that ELDs improve hours of service compliance or reduce crashes. In its June brief, FMCSA pointed out that “as an initial matter,” it was “not statutorily required to do a cost-benefit analysis at all, so any objection to that analysis provides no basis to vacate the rule.” Nevertheless, FMCSA said its own analysis, using data from motor carriers already using electronic logs, fully supports the rule. OOIDA's reply brief disagrees, saying “FMCSA has provided no valid evidentiary support for its conclusion that ELDs will reduce HOS violations or crash risk.”

    The association says FMCSA has not studied the effectiveness of the devices, and ignored a 2014 study that found no differences between trucks using electronic logs and trucks not using them in recordable and fatigue-related crash rates.

    4. Does an ELD constitute unreasonable search? FMCSA in its June brief flatly declared that “ELDs do not violate the Fourth Amendment. ELDs are neither a ‘search' nor a ‘seizure' under the Fourth Amendment. ELDs are not surreptitiously attached to a vehicle by the government, but are installed by a motor carrier openly and pursuant to regulation with the advanced knowledge of the carrier and driver, who effectively consent to their installation and use by voluntarily participating the commercial motor carrier industry.”

    OOIDA's reply brief points to a 2012 Supreme Court ruling against law enforcement agencies placing GPS or other tracking devices on private citizens' vehicles without a warrant. OOIDA dismissed FMCSA's argument that trucking is a “pervasively regulated” industry and that drivers are giving their consent to search merely by agreeing to participate in the industry.

    5. Do they violate driver privacy? FMCSA in its brief said the rule “takes appropriate measures to preserve the confidentiality of personal data contained in ELDs, relying in part on existing regulations and federal law protecting the release of private information, as well as committing the agency to redact private information from the administrative record in an enforcement action, and further requiring motor carriers to protect private data consistent with sound business practices and requiring ELDs have secure access to data and use encryption methods while transferring data.”

    FMCSA said the OOIDA brief “contains only vague assertions that the agency should have done more, without specifying exactly what additional procedures they desire or explaining why the provisions adopted are not ‘appropriate measures' as Congress required.”

    In its reply, OOIDA said the agency is misrepresenting what Congress required.“FMCSA's truncation of the statutory language conveniently omits reference to the words ‘shall institute appropriate measures' and gratuitously represents that ‘Congress required the FMCSA to consider ‘appropriate measures.'”

    The OOIDA brief goes on to detail ways data can be used to harass drivers, in unrelated criminal investigations for example.

    Related from the archives: OOIDA Refutes Recent Electronic Logging Device Study (2014)

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    15 Aug by Vitaliy Dadalyan Tags:

    The OEMs have stepped up

    While the truck makers are keeping their some of their plans quiet about the technologies they plan to deploy to meet the anticipated Greenhouse Gas Phase 2 emissions standards, they are not just sitting idly by.

    In a review of new Class 8 model trucks in the recent issue of Fleet Owner, the OEMs shared some changes they are making NOW to make their trucks more fuel efficient.

    If you have not read the article here is brief recap of some of the changes coming for 2017 models:

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